Little Millie may have four legs, floppy ears and a very waggy tail but she has stopped many a cake from being burned.
She’s a hearing dog and alerts Valerie Hastie when the oven timer goes off.
And if Valerie doesn’t react quickly enough, Millie takes it upon herself to sit in front to the oven until Valerie gets the message.
Millie has been supporting Valerie, who has significant hearing loss, in her Waitara home since February last year.
The little dog spent six month training to be a hearing dog at the Hearing Dog New Zealand School just on the outskirts of New Plymouth.
She lets Valerie know by tapping her on the leg when the door-bell rings, when the smoke alarm goes or the phone rings.
Millie will also run to get Valerie when Valerie’s husband John needs to speak to her.
Valerie says Mille has changed her life.
“I was not confident around the house because I couldn’t hear the bell, I couldn’t hear the phone. People would come in and tap me on the shoulder because they had tried to knock on the door and call and I hadn’t heard. And so I am just very, very relaxed around the home now.”
Hearing dogs wear yellow jackets when they are out in the community and that alerts people to the fact the person with the dog is deaf or hearing impaired.
Valerie says she enjoys the social benefits of having a hearing dog because being deaf can be very isolating.
“People will chat, often at length, and want to know all about her.” she says with a smile.
It costs $30,000 to train a hearing dog but the person who receives it needs only to meet the day-to-day costs of having a dog and pay for a visit to New Plymouth during training.
Up to 12 hearing dogs are trained each year in New Zealand.
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