This dog's all ears
Hearing dog Abbey has made a big impact on her owner and is now considered part of the family.
Birkdale woman Helen Ware is profoundly deaf in one ear and has 50 per cent hearing in the other.
She adopted Abbey in March after applying through Hearing Dogs, a national organisation that provides trained dogs to the hearing-impaired.
The mother of two says she cannot imagine life without Abbey.
"She's my baby, she's like one of my kids.
"If I go to the toilet she sticks her head around the door to keep an eye on me, anyone with a toddler will know what that's like."
Hearing puppies spend their first two years training to pick up important sounds and learning how to alert their owners. Dogs of all breeds like king charles cavalier-shitsu cross Abbey are tuned in to noises from smoke detectors, alarms, doorbells and certain people's names.
Ms Ware says Abbey alerts her by standing on her two hind legs and placing her paws on her lap.
The process of pairing a dog to its owner is a fine art, Ms Ware says.
Applicants must be 18 or over and are told to expect a wait of up to two years for a match. Hearing Dogs require an audiologist report and will accept applicants based on their level of hearing impairment.
"They do an indepth interview to find out your interests, hobbies and what sort of personality you have," Ms Ware says.
Applicants are then invited to stay at the Hearing Dogs cottage to meet dogs with potential for a match. Each dog costs about $30,000 to train. There are only about 60 dogs paired with owners in New Zealand.
"I pay for her food and vet care, but aside from that she has been like a thirty-grand gift.
"All they ask is that I take good care of her and in return she gives me love and devotion," Ms Ware says.
Abbey has been so much more than just a pair of ears, she says.
"She could potentially save my life. When the kids were young I used to sleep on the floor next to them. I knew I had to be close if something was wrong.
"Once I was standing right next to the baby monitor with my husband when he raced out of the room because he could hear our daughter. He found she had turned completely blue. If he hadn't have been home that night my 16-year-old daughter would not be here."
Hearing Dogs urges anyone with a hearing impairment to apply.
Go to hearingdogs.org.nz or call 06 769 5000.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Have the new speed limit rules made you change your driving habits?