An Afghan Hound arrives for Crufts 2018 at the NEC in Birmingham, England, on Saturday. (Photo: AP)
Alongside well-groomed canines taking part in beauty contests this week at Britain’s Crufts dog show, specially trained labradors, poodles and cocker spaniels showed off a different set of skills that can save the lives of their disabled owners.
These four-legged helpers are trained not just to help the blind or partially sighted but also to recognise a variety of sounds for the deaf or detect the signs of an impending epileptic fit.
Some of the dogs can recognise the sound of an alarm clock, a knock on the door or a fire alarm — and transmit the information by moving their paws or adopting certain positions.
Veronica Pearce, a spokeswoman for the association Hearing Dogs For Deaf People, which was taking part in the display at Crufts, the world’s biggest dog show, said the aim of the charity was to give disabled people their independence back.
“We have got lots of people who before might be relying on their parents or their parents wouldn’t be able to leave them, but are now living on their own,” Pearce said. Since it was created in 1985, the organisation has helped more than 2,000 people.
“If someone requests a certain sound at application stage, we will make sure that the dog is trained ready for that,” said Janine Hovey, a 27-year-old trainer.
For the past three years, John Morris, a former warehouse worker based in Leeds in northern England, has had Theo, a cocker spaniel given to him by the association.
“I have now got my freedom back. Without him, I could not go out,” said Morris, who lost his hearing 15 years ago because of his job and now works as a volunteer for the association. For Morris, it is about more than having a dog who can hear for him.