Hal, the hearing dog who de-stressed an entire family
Olivia became deaf when she was three. Nobody knows why. She wouldn't talk to anyone. She hid behind her brother. She just wanted to disappear.
Then Hal came along and suddenly Olivia had a friend. A best friend!
She grew in confidence. And grew and grew and grew. She even gave a talk in front of 180 kids at her school to tell them about why she wears hearing aids, and how Hal helps her.
Hal really did change everything. Read Olivia and Hal's story below. First as told by Olivia and then by her mum Karen.
"Hal helps me every day. He is my ears. He tells me about important sounds, like my mobile phone, so I can keep in touch with my friends.
"When the alarm clock goes in the morning, he wakes me up with his paws on the bed. When it rings to tell me I can finish my homework, he gives me a gentle nudge with his nose.
"We’re a team. Hal looks after me, and I look after him. I brush Hal’s teeth and groom his fur every morning. Then we go for walkies.
"When people see him, and notice his jacket, they talk to me about him. I love telling them how he helps me.
"If I’m feeling tired, I can give Hal a cuddle and I feel much better. He ‘energises me up’.
"He’s not just my hearing dog. He’s my best friend."
How Hal helped the entire family, as told by her mum Karen
"Imagine a life of shouting. Shouting across the dinner table, shouting down the hall, shouting up the stairs. Shouting in the car, shouting on the school run, shouting in the supermarket. Shouting while making the family meal, shouting when the doorbell rings, shouting, shouting, always shouting…
"This is what life was like while Olivia lost her hearing. We all slowly got louder and louder without realising it. We didn’t know then what we know now: that shouting at a deaf person is the worst thing you can do.
"We all shouted because we felt it was how to get our message across. It was unbearably stressful. Then hearing dog Hal came along and changed everything.
"Olivia started to go deaf aged three. Over 18 months she went from a moderate to a severe hearing loss. Every hearing test, every MRI scan, all we knew was, that it was getting worse. Nobody knew why, and nobody could do anything about it.
"We felt helpless, as we watched Olivia withdraw into herself. When someone spoke to her, she would hide behind her brother. She didn’t speak to strangers at all.
"At home, Olivia got louder, butting into conversation over the breakfast table, simply because she didn’t know people were talking. We all got louder, trying to get our message across to her.
"I remember how bad it became when we had builders round. If you’ve ever had building work or decorating done, you’ll know the chaos it brings. Imagine that desperation multiplied tenfold, a hundredfold. I honestly thought we might not cope as a family. We were reaching breaking point.
And then Hal happened.
"Hal – the missing link, the dog-shaped hole in our family – came into our lives and had a profound, immediate effect.
"Now, if I need Olivia, Hal fetches her. No fuss. If her mobile rings, Hal tells Olivia by nudging her with his nose. When Olivia’s alarm clock goes in the morning, Hal wakes her up with his paws on the bed. When Olivia does her homework, Hal tells her when study time ends – again, when the alarm clock goes, with a gentle nudge from a little wet nose.
"It’s easy. No more stress.
"I could not believe that one animal could have such a significant effect on a family. It was like taking the top off the pressure cooker – a sudden, collective sigh of relief.
"Today, we are a happy, healthy family. It’s a life that I thought I would never experience again. Hal brought a calmness to the madness. I can't thank Hearing Dogs enough."
Read more stories from deaf people you have helped
Our hearing dogs help deaf people overcome feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and isolation. They also become a deaf person's best friend.