Being hard of hearing can be ruff without yelp
With big round eyes, pricked ears and short stocky legs, Qiu Lijun’s Corgi “Thirteen” is one of China’s few hearing-aid dogs.
When it hears a knock on the door, it does not bark but runs about the room to draw Qiu’s attention.
When the alarm clock rings, it will stand in front of Qiu’s bed, patting its paws to wake her up.
“I had lived in a silent world without any sounds, which caused a lot of troubles for my life,” said Qiu, 66, who lives in northeast China’s Liaoning Province. “It was ‘Thirteen’ who rescued me.”
In May 2018, Qiu was given “Thirteen” at a ceremony held by the Beijing disabled persons services center. At that time, “Thirteen” had been trained for about eight months in the Beiliu working dog training center.
“‘Thirteen’ is a Welsh Corgi, a breed of small dogs,” said Song Yi, general manager of the center. “But the Corgi has a stable and calm character. They are very bold and alert, and can guard homes with great vigilance.”
The center will first test the dogs’ sensitivity to sounds by playing the harmonica and tapping on metal. After the screening process, the guide dogs generally need to go through about 10 months of training to help them distinguish a variety of daily sounds, such as alarms, knocking, fire, laughter, cries of a baby, and to react in a timely manner when dealing with car horns and the sound of boiling water.
Practical and mental help
The dogs also learn about how to get along with people and to call for help when their owners are in danger.
The training center also takes the dogs back for refresher courses on a regular basis.
Therefore, the training cost of a hearing-aid dog can exceed 400,000 yuan (US$58,900), said Song.
Research has found the working dogs not only provided practical help but also assist with improving mental health.
Every time Qiu goes out with “Thirteen” in the community, the sign “working dog” on the Corgi’s clothes always attracts people’s attention.
“After a while, I became friends with the residents, and the security guards of the community also began to take care of me after they found out that I am hearing-impaired,” she said.
“Home was once an empty house for me. But now, I have ‘Thirteen.’”