"My partnership with Widget is life changing."
Posted by Sarah O'Brien
Having first been partnered with a hearing dog in 1990, John Roberts thought he knew what to expect when Widget came into his life five years ago.
However, even he’s been surprised by just how much this clever miniature poodle is capable of.
Read John's story below:
“As far as anyone can tell I was born with a hearing loss, however, it wasn’t until I was 11 and having a medical by the school nurse that my mother asked her to test my hearing. The result was that I was sent to Birmingham Children’s Hospital audiology department. The Audiologist said that had my hearing level been ‘only one point more down on the graph’ I would not have been able to hear my mother’s voice.
“Up until I was diagnosed, I didn’t know I was deaf. I thought everyone else was the same as me. I couldn’t understand why other children made friends and socialised so easily and I pretended to be like them. This continued after diagnosis and my hearing gradually became worse, resulting in me taking retirement at 45.
“The extreme difficulty trying to communicate with other people is very stressful. The amount of concentration a deaf person experiences all the time in trying to converse is huge and it’s no surprise to me that deaf people are susceptible to depression.
“I heard about Hearing Dogs (then still in its infancy) through receiving a Hearing Dogs Christmas card. A friend suggested I apply, but I firmly said I didn’t want to. Unbeknown to me, my friend sent off the forms on my behalf. There was some more persuasion before I ‘gave in’.”
John was first partnered with hearing dog George 28 years ago, and since then has been paired with border terrier Nick and cockerpoo Ruby, who were faithful companions for many years. That leads us nicely on to Widget.
John says: “Widget’s trainer was very astute in matching partnerships and there were no problems with bonding. It didn’t take long at all and now I can’t imagine my life without him.
“Widget is a gateway to meeting other people and entering into social interaction far more readily than if I didn’t have him. People want me to tell them about Widget, even simple questions like, ‘what’s his name?’ and ‘how old is he?’ often lead to much longer conversations.
“I can’t help but stress the companionship that a hearing dog gives to someone isolated by deafness. I feel, after all these years, that my partnership with Widget is life changing.”
It's not only John who Widget has helped though, as he has also come to the rescue of John's neighbours on more than one occasion.
“A few months ago Widget alerted me, but I didn't know what it was as it wasn't any usual sound," adds John. "I went to the front door of my flat, which opens on to a communal corridor.
“There on my mat was a purse, keys and wallet belonging to the lady from upstairs who has dementia. I went upstairs and she was collapsed on the landing, so I got her up and on to her bed. As I can't phone, I went to the Doctor's surgery, which is next door and they came, and she was taken into hospital.
“Sadly she is now in long term psychiatric wing, but it was Widget who came to the rescue and I’ve since take him in to see her three times.
“Another time I was visiting an elderly lady and was making coffee in her kitchen. Widget alerted me and took me to the lady, who had told him to ‘call John’. She was on the floor, having fallen off the end of her bed trying to put her socks on and she couldn't move."
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