Geoff’s Story

I migrated to New Zealand in 1967, at the age of 43, along with my young wife, my three-year-old son, my aging mother (77) and our cocker spaniel. He was one of a long line of his breed who shared much of my boyhood and adult life.
I didn’t return to the UK until into the year 2000 when an old friend of mine in England decided he was getting too old to travel and come and see me (he was about ninety) so sent me the wherewithal to go and visit him.
Thank you “Hearing Dogs” for one of the greatest loves of my life.

imgTobyI didn’t return to the UK until into the year 2000 when an old friend of mine in England decided he was getting too old to travel and come and see me (he was about ninety) so sent me the wherewithal to go and visit him.

Whilst in Scotland on that trip read in a Scottish newspaper an article about Hearing Dogs In UK. I had never heard of such a phenomenon before and cut the article out and sent it home to NZ where my current spaniel was on his last legs, and sadly had to be put-down before I returned.

A couple of months after my return to New Zealand. I saw a feature about Hearing Dogs on television and managed to get an address. At that time it was all happening from a garage in Auckland under the efforts and finance (mainly) of Johanna Brens and Hannah Samuel. Johanna came to Dunedin to vet me and I was accepted as a potential recipient.

About two years later I received a letter from New Plymouth telling me that they had a dog for me and could I come up and train with him for about a week. With it came a photograph of a cheeky little crossbreed long-haired Jack Russell/ Cairn Terrier, described by Kate as a “cruisy little dog”. How right she was! The centre had just opened; indeed I was the second person to be trained there with a dog and the place wasn’t officially opened for about another year. But that’s where Toby took over my life, it was strange after years of pedigree animals to have this saucy little street kid stray come into my existence.

Toby had adored Kate, but she tactfully withdrew and in a very short time the bonding between we two commenced. The following Sunday Toby had his first air flight to Dunedin and behaved like a trooper. Ever since (getting on for six years now) Toby has been the only Hearing Dog in this city, except for about a year when a dachshund shared the honours with him.

It soon became evident who was looking after who; this little dog with his legs too short for his body marches along with all the confidence in the world, head held high and wonderful undocked tail curving up over his back, waving like a banner. Definitely he is looking after me in his estimation!

Wherever we go people smile at him, stop to chat about him, offer to take him home! In spite of my “doggy” background I have never been so close to a dog because he goes everywhere with me.

As I am an Anglican Priest he is conversant with church services throughout the Diocese and is well know in the Cathedral, and his behaviour is always above reproach.

There are those who object to Hearing Dogs being called “pets” and I guess they have a point, but I could never designate Toby as just a “working dog”, he is my mate, my chum, my alter ego.

Yes, he does his pawing job pretty well; though I am relieved to hear other recipients say that sometimes their dogs need a Hearing Dog themselves because they have become too comfortable to respond! I was going to say “After all, they’re only human” but you know what I mean.

I always maintain that one of the big bonuses of having a Hearing Dog is that it advertises the fact that we suffer from the “unseen disability” and people tend to treat us with an understanding which is not always forthcoming otherwise.

Recently Toby was diagnosed with a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, which translated as a genetic complication with the ligament of his back leg. He needed an operation which would cost about a couple of thousand dollars. I was desperate because as a superannuant I don’t have that sort of money. Fortunately the Otago Daily Times picked up on the story and the good people of Dunedin came to the party. The money was raised, Toby went to Christchurch and was operated on, came home and is now fine again. Dunedin knows its Hearing Dog!

My only regret is the short life-span of these, our companions and helpers. Toby is about eight years old now. OK I’m eighty three so it’s a bit of a gamble as to who’s going first, but somebody’s going to be heartbroken one day. Which of us I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, thank you “Hearing Dogs” for one of the greatest loves of my life.

Sadly Toby did pass away in August 2011 in Geoffs arms and our hearts go out to Geoff at this very difficult time.

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