Canine ears make living alone easier

After Sadie alerts Maria to a noise she can't hear, her hearing dog is rewarded
After Sadie alerts Maria to a noise she can't hear, her hearing dog is rewarded
Jenny Barlass

First hearing dog in Australia to live in a high-rise

For Maria Devlin, living alone has always been a problem – not being able to hear the front door, a ringing phone or even worse, a blaring smoke alarm or overflowing sink.

But thanks to the tireless fundraising of Hornsby Lions, the profoundly deaf 48 year-old Waitara woman now has another set of ears to do the listening for her. And, say Lions, it’s the first time in Australia that a hearing dog has been deployed in a high rise strata.

Meet three year-old Sadie, a delightful Maltese Terrier Cross. Sadie, who was presented to a delighted Maria at a moving ceremony at Hornsby Lions event last month, can hear everything going on in Maria’s fifth floor flat – and raise the alarm if need be.

“I can’t hear the mobile ringing, the intercom, the knock at the door, the smoke alarm, or the kettle boiling,” says Maria. “Sadie has been trained to jump up and put her paw on me. She points me in the direction the noise is coming from and I reward her for it.

“Other dogs might bark to do this but Sadie has been trained to know that’s no use. I can’t hear her barking as I only hear low tones.

“And when I’m asleep or in the shower without my hearing aid, she comes in and alerts me. Sh basically mothers me.”

Sadie is certainly earning her keep, alerting Maria to things around her at least four or five times a day. “Having Sadie means I can relax more and enjoy my life. I’m looking forward to sleeping better at night.”

Hornsby Lions President John Lockyer said that Lions Australia has delivered 560 dogs to hearing impaired people around the country since 1982.

“Getting Sadie to the point where she’s able to alert her owner to noises required two trainers over eight months training at the Lion’s dogs centre in Burden in the Adelaide Hills, at a cost of $35,000 per dog,” explain John.

“Most are rescue dogs or retrieved from pounds and are chosen for this vital task for their sound sensitivity, though owners get to pick the breed based on temperament and coat.

“The trainers then come to Maria’s home and test out all the sounds in a real working environment with Sadie, so she knows what to do.”

Sadie’s success has now opened up the possibility for more hearing dogs in strata locations around the country.

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