Radiographer, Emese Gal, suffers from a rare genetic disease called Neurofibromatosis 2 (also called Central Bilateral Acoustic NF) which causes tumours to grow on both auditory nerves. Emese lost her hearing three years ago, but thanks to a stray dog and the Lions Club, she has been able to continue working and carrying out her normal day to day activities.
Emese’s dog, Marvin, is a Cavalier King Charles x Brittany Spaniel. He was rescued from the Animal Welfare League and trained at the Lions Hearing Dogs Centre. He learned to recognise and respond to sounds made by the telephone, kettle, smoke detector, alarm clock, microwave and the doorbell. When Marvin hears a sound, he will advance to its source, then approach Emese, alert her by touch and guide her towards the sound. Marvin also accompanies Emese to work every day.
The Hearing Dogs Program
The program started in Adelaide in 1980, and since then 347 dogs have been placed Australia-wide. The dogs are strays selected from the RSPCA and Animal Welfare League pounds. It costs about $12,000 to train a dog, but there is no cost to the recipient. Once trained and placed with their new owners, the dogs provide comfort, care and therapy through companionship.
Mary Knight is one of the dog trainers at the Hearing Dogs Centre. Mary finds it very rewarding helping someone with a hearing impairment and also saving a life from the pound. The dogs are trained on a reward system using food, toys and praise. Although they have a high success rate (90%) with the dogs they select from the pound, suitable dogs are not always available. To cater for the high demand for dogs, they hope to start a breeding program using Labrador Retrievers in the near future.
How to apply for a hearing dog
Contact the Lions Hearing Dogs Centre or your local Lions Club for more information.
Lions Hearing Dogs Inc
PO Box 164
Phone: (08) 8388 7836
Fax: (08) 8388 1299
TTY telephone typewriter: (08) 8388 1297