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Northants Mongrel Tiffin is top hearing dog for September

Posted Sep 02 2009 6:32pm

Joan and Tiffin.JPG
A Brackley hearing dog has been awarded the Hearing Dog of the Month award by the charity that trained her.

Four year old mongrel, Tiffin, started life as a stray in the Republic of Ireland, and was seven months old when she came to the attention of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. She was brought over to England to begin her socialising and training to be a hearing dog.

Hearing dogs are specially trained to alert their deaf owners to sounds like alarm clocks, oven timers, telephones and doorbells. They also give special signals for warning sounds like smoke alarms and firebells.

In November 2006 Tiffin went to live with severely deaf Joan Knibbs in Brackley, on the Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire border. Joan has been progressively losing her hearing since 1961 but for years she coped with the help of her husband. It was only when he sadly died that she started to find life difficult. “It was not until I was once more on my own,” she says, “when all the preparations and visitors who had arrived for the funeral had gone, that I found I had been buoyed up with the love and help of my family. They had their own grief to battle with, and I drifted into despond. Dennis had been another pair of ears for me when in need, and my confidence had taken a setback without him. After thinking about it for a few months I came to the conclusion that a hearing dog would be the answer to my prayers.”

Following a visit to Hearing Dogs’ southern training centre, Joan signed up for a hearing dog and came home full of happiness. After an 18 month wait, she finally received a photo of Tiffin. “When I saw her appealing face and big ears I felt full of emotion; I fell in love with her there and then. She eventually came home with me on my birthday; what a lovely present.”

In addition to the regular sounds, Tiffin has helped Joan in other ways. “Tiffin has surprised me in many ways. On one occasion she has told me that a car is coming from behind and has ushered me onto the verge.” Joan has also found that she is so much more relaxed with Tiffin around. “I didn’t realise just how much I used to rely on my husband to tell me about sounds. Now I have Tiffin, the tension has eased. She encourages me to go for long walks, which I never felt inclined to do on my own before. We are getting to be known in the community; we have been to social gatherings and to church together.”

As Joan lives on her own, it is hard for her to practise the doorbell, but fortunately her postman has offered to help. Tiffin loves the sound, and happily sits quietly in the hall as Joan opens the front door.

“Tiffin follows me everywhere. She will put her little face on my knee, and look up to me with adoring, bright eyes. Although she wasn’t trained to the alarm clock, she does jump on the bed to tell me it is time to get up. It took her a little bit longer to get the telephone response just right, but one day when I was upstairs washing my hair, she came gently scrabbling at my leg, then took me down to the telephone beautifully. Tiffin’s companionship is precious to me, and I love her to bits. There is no dwelling on my own thoughts in lonely hours now that I have my sweet little hearing dog.”

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