POOCH lovers in the region who don’t have the time or money to own their own pet are being called on to sign up for a scheme.
Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, based at Bielby, are seeking ‘bed and breakfast’ volunteers - people can take home the dogs for an evening or weekend.
The centre trains up young dogs which will eventually be handed to those who are either deaf or hard of hearing. Like guide dogs, they assist in every day tasks and are taught to react to certain sounds to help alert their owners, such as the doorbell or smoke alarm.
However, while the dogs are going through the 16-week training process, workers at the centre prefer that the dogs can get used to a home life in the evening, rather than spend it in a kennel.
With demand for the hearing dogs far outstripping the number available, training manager Karen Milsom said the Hayton Road centre is planning to bring in more dogs, so new bed and breakfast volunteers will be needed.
She said: “We can have up to 30 dogs on site training and they are fine in the kennels in the evening, but it’s good to see what they’re like in the home, and the best way to do that is to spend time with a volunteer.
“It‘s proved really popular and when people do it they get a lot of satisfaction. A lot of people would love to have a dog but work, so this is the perfect solution.”
Volunteers can pick up the dogs from 5pm and drop them off before 9am the next morning. They are simply expected to treat them like a family pet, take them for walks or play with them.
Mrs Milsom said time spent in the home environment is so valuable to the dog’s development, Hearing Dogs will provide the food, basket, toys, and cover all veterinary costs. Volunteers can even claim mileage for collecting the dogs from the centre.
Carole Hendry from Wilberfoss has been volunteering for 18 months and has had several pooches become temporary members of the family.
Living with her 11-year-old son Sam and 9-year-old daughter Isabel, Carole’s work commitments mean they are unable to have a full-time family pet.
However, she got to learn about the scheme through her job as a new born hearing screener at York Hospital.
The family currently has young Innes home to stay in the evening at weekends, a one-year-old Golden Retriever-cross-Labrador who is being trained up to work with a deaf child.
She said: “We would love to have a dog at home but with me working we can’t.
“We enjoy doing this, there is still a commitment but the dogs are very well behaved and the children love them.
“We had no problem with Innes, he came in to the house and he just sat down and he was fine.
“It always difficult to say goodbye to them [when their training is complete], especially if you’ve had one for the 16 weeks.
“But you know they are going to a good home for someone who is deaf, it’s rewarding.
“I keep in touch with some of the recipients, and the dogs make such a massive difference to their lives.”
Anyone interested can contact the centre on (01759) 322299 between 9am and 5pm, or email volunteer co-coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteers must live within a 30 minute drive of the centre. The dogs are all neutered, and even those with other pets, such as cats, can still apply.
Hearing Dogs will then carry out a home visit to ensure the placement is suitable.