Brighton hearing dog Piggle, who tells his severely deaf owner about household sounds including the doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm has just been named Hearing Dog of the Month by the charity that trained him.
Piggle is quite an unusual dog being a Chinese Crested Powder Puff, meaning he has hair as opposed to regular Chinese Crested dogs which are generally hairless! He was donated to Hearing Dogs when he was ten months old, and in February 2005 he went to live with Margot Bristow.
Margot (66) is an artist, so her life is quite varied from being in the studio to visiting schools. Piggle goes everywhere with her, and is a frequent visitor to most of the London art galleries where he is happy to sit on his blanket while Margot is working with deaf and disabled artists. Margot says: “When his hearing dog coat goes on Piggle seems to know that he is on duty and has to remember his manners. Equally he is able to enjoy meeting all his dog friends when out for walks and off duty.”
In spite of being a small dog Piggle is a great little trooper. One thing he is not so keen on though is being groomed. Unfortunately for him his beautiful, flowing, silky locks need daily brushing to stop him from becoming a tangled ball of fur! Margot lives near both rolling countryside and the sea. Piggle loves walking and running happily trotting along for hours, but if it is raining then it’s a different matter. “He is not a lover of water,” she laughs. “In fact he hates getting his paws wet so rainy days are not his favourite.”
Margot travels a lot both in the UK and abroad, and of course, Piggle accompanies her. “In 2007 we travelled together on Eurostar to stay with friends in the south of France. He took it all in his stride, even crossing Paris on the metro. When we travel by bus locally or by train to London he will sit quietly by my feet. On longer journeys I take a blanket so he can have a snooze, but however relaxed he may appear he is always alert to my voice. I only have to tell him we’re getting off at the next stop, for him to be fully alert. He is incredibly obedient and follows instructions without fail.”
It is not just Piggle’s soundwork that has made a difference to Margot, as she explains: “Each morning he jumps on the bed to alert me to the sound of the alarm clock, my affectionate furry friend. He is particularly special as he has enabled me to become more confident. People can see when he is wearing his hearing dog coat that I am deaf, so I don’t have to constantly explain my invisible disability.
“Piggle is a fabulous dog. Walking back from the woods one day I dropped my keys but was unaware of it. He stopped walking and would not move until I realised. He also alerted me in the house once and led me to his food bowl which was in front of the water bowl stopping him from getting some water!
“Piggle has changed my life in so many ways; not only is he sociable and a great companion, he has a very cheerful temperament. I am not a terribly social being, but he is a great ice-breaker, and always gets a conversation started. Piggle is my ears and a special hearing dog.”