Saturday, 19 June 2021

Henley Rotary Club

“IT hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” quipped Rotarian John Grout as he proposed the vote of

“IT hasn’t fallen on deaf ears,” quipped Rotarian John Grout as he proposed the vote of thanks for a talk from representatives of the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People at the club’s lunch meeting at the Red Lion Hotel on Tuesday last week. Michelle Sapwell, the charity’s community fund-raising manager for Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, attended the meeting together with one of the volunteers, Janet Forsyth.

Janet, who has been deaf herself since birth, asked the charity to train her own dog, a cockapoo called Noodles, which she had brought along to the meeting.

Ms Sapwell told how the charity aimed to build life-changing partnerships with dogs for deaf people.

It had started from a pilot scheme held at Crufts Dog Show in 1982.

The early work and training of the dogs took place at kennels in Chinnor, followed four years later by Hearing Dogs becoming a registered charity and the purchase of a training centre at Lewknor.

In 1999 a former stud farm at Saunderton, near Princes Risborough, was opened as the headquarters, replacing Lewknor as the training centre for the south (a centre having opened in Yorkshire in 1994).

There are an estimated 11 million people in the country with a hearing loss, 800,000 of whom are profoundly deaf.

Ms Sapwell said hearing dogs reduced isolation, stress and loneliness, explainig how they were trained to recognise and differentiate between the various sounds which couldn’t be heard by a deaf person, such as a doorbell, a telephone, or a fire alarm.

The favoured breeds of dog, which the charity trained from puppies, were cocker spaniels, Labradors and poodles.

More than 2,000 dogs had been placed in partnerships since 1982 and last year 140 new dogs were trained.

It cost about £40,000 for each partnership.

Ms Sapwell showed two videos illustrating how deaf people had formed lasting partnerships with their dogs and concluded by quoting a young lady whose dog had lost its sight: “He borrows my eyes and I borrow his ears and together we make the best team in the world.”

On the previous Tuesday 15 members and partners visited the Rebellion Brewery in Marlow as part of a crowd of about 500 people sampling the various ales on offer.

Thanks were expressed by those attending to the drivers who ensured everyone arrived home safely.

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