Dog ears on duty

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 12/12/2013
Celia King
COMPANIONS: Celia King and her hearing dog Kiri.

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The alarm clock, door bell or telephone are sounds most of us don't think twice about hearing.

But without the help of her hearing dog Celia King would sleep in or leave a visitor waiting.

The Henderson Heights resident is profoundly deaf and relies on Kiri to let her know when a noise sounds.

"When my alarm goes off Kiri paws the bed and wakes me up," Mrs King says.

"I've trained her so if there's an ambulance coming while I'm driving she'll sit up and become very alert so I know I need to get out of the way. You come to depend on them and we have such a strong bond. She's like an extension of myself," she says.

The connection shared by Mrs King and Kiri is just one featured in a book exploring the role of dogs whose actions save and mend broken human lives.

Dogs in Action by Maria Alomajan looks at the different roles dogs play from tracking elephant poachers in Africa, digging for avalanche survivors in Switzerland, detecting hidden explosives in war-torn Afghanistan and comforting the elderly in New Zealand.

A hearing dog works in a similar way a guide dog works for someone who's blind and alerts its owner to noises they can't hear.

Mrs King has self-taught the three-year-old golden collie everything she needs to know about being attentive to sound.

She says Kiri was born with a sixth sense and hasn't yet made her late for work or burn a meal.

"At nine weeks old she would hear the oven timer or the phone ring and know she had to let me know. It's like she was born into the role."

The friendship shared between the two is evident while watching Kiri and her owner interact with each other.

"A lot of people who lose their hearing can miss out socially and a dog provides companionship," she says.

"Because I can't hear well, Kiri gives me confidence in social situations."

Author and freelance journalist Ms Alomajan was inspired to write the book after wanting to train one of her three dogs into a more official role.

"I wanted to give people a broad idea of what dogs are capable of so they can look at their pets and think ‘wow'," she says.

More than 40 dogs are featured in the book and Ms Alomajan says dogs' abilities are almost limitless.

"It's just a matter of humans harnessing the capabilities and guiding dogs in the direction they want to go in."

Dogs in Action is available in bookstores nationwide and from exislepublishing.co.nz.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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