"Jamie opened the doors to a new life"
Maggie woke up one morning to find that she'd suffered significant hearing loss. Overnight, her life had changed, and she found herself struggling to cope with everyday situations that she had previously taken for granted. Her wonderful partnerships with hearing dogs have enabled Maggie to turn things around and escape isolation.
"I asked my boss: 'Why are you whispering?'
"He said that he wasn’t. That’s when I realised I’d gone deaf overnight.
"The violence in my childhood caused the deafness in my adulthood. My father suffered sleeping sickness, but was prescribed the wrong dose of amphetamines. As a result, he was very violent. He used to smack my head against the wall. It was inevitable there would be some long-term damage.
"One morning, I awoke to find I had become profoundly deaf. It was... terrifying.
"Terrifying because I lived on my own and I had no family support. Terrifying because I couldn’t hear a smoke alarm. Terrifying because I just did not know what to do, or how to cope.
"Even the constant, little irritations ground me down. I couldn’t hear the normal, everyday sounds hearing people take for granted: the alarm clock, the doorbell, just picking up the phone and talking to someone. I used to enjoy going to the cinema and theatre, but it was too challenging.
"It was all taken away from me.
"I lost my confidence to go out. I became a recluse. Just seeing people I might have to interact with, walking down the street towards me, would put me into a panic. I would cross the road or dart into a shop to avoid them.
"This lasted two years. Two wasted years in which I barely left the house. So you see, I lost everything – my job, social life, independence."
A ray of sunshine
"I called my first hearing dog Clay my ‘Sunbeam'. He was a ray of sunshine wherever we went, a beautiful black Cockapoo.
"The day I was partnered with Clay was, and still is, one of the happiest days of my life. Knowing that Clay would tell me if the smoke alarm was going off, or the doorbell was ringing, made life easier. Each day started with Clay touching me with his paw to alert me to the alarm clock – there was no snooze button on Clay!
"Instead of being terrified, I felt safe with Clay by my side – at last.
"Slowly I regained my confidence meeting people again. When we went out together, his coat signalled that I was deaf. People would stop and ask questions, and I started feeling able to interact with them again. I began working at Canterbury Cathedral as an assistant, with Clay being the first ever assistance dog to work there.
"But then Clay died of cancer. The cathedral held a beautiful memorial service, attended by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury and the Sheriff of Canterbury, as well as Hearing Dogs staff.
"When Clay died, I lost the plot. I’d gained enough confidence to get back into the world of work, but without hearing the alarm clock, I would stay up all night in case I overslept. My life became tiring and terrifying again. I went back into ‘solitary confinement’.
"At that same time, Jamie was qualifying as a hearing dog. After 18 months of training he’d been matched with me. When I found this out, it felt like Clay was handing over to Jamie. Today, I feel they are both looking after me."
Jamie lights up my life
"Jamie is now my 'Sunbeam'. He helps me, to become the person I want to be. I now work at the Gulbenkian arts centre, assisted by Jamie Lee, Head Usher, Canine Division! I feel I can meet people and function in the real world again.
"Thanks to Jamie, the doors to my new life are wide open and the sun comes flooding in."
Shine a sunbeam into someone else's life
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Our hearing dogs help deaf people overcome feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and isolation. They also become a deaf person's best friend.