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Hearing Dog Wins National Award

Nellie saved her entire family when an intruder entered their hotel room.

"My partner of 14 years left me when I became deaf," explains Gill Houghton of Brighton, East Sussex. I felt deaf, dull, and dowdy. I was alone with a 10-year-old boy and a 15-month-old baby." She further explains that her son had to tell her when someone was at the door and even when the baby cried at night. But that was all before Nellie entered their lives.

Nellie is a Hearing Dog that was trained by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People which is an organization that selects and trains dogs to responds to specific sounds. Hearing dogs are "trained to alert their owners to everyday household sounds including the doorbell, telephone, cooker timer and even alarm clocks. The dogs touch them with a paw when they hear a sound and will lead them to the source of the sound." If the dog hears a danger sound, such as a smoke detector, they will drop to the floor.

Since the black Lab came into their lives, Gill now feels that she can relax a little more. Nellie has freed her son of a lot of responsibilities around the house. Gill also says that she no long has to sit up at night worrying about the smoke detector.

Gill, Nellie and the children had the opportunity to take a mini vacation and stayed in a bed and breakfast. "It was the middle of the night and Nellie woke me," explains Gill. "I thought she had made a mistake so I told her to get off the bed. But she jumped up again, alerted me and dropped to the floor in the emergency position. I then sat up and put my glasses on and saw that the door to the room was open and a man was standing in the doorway looking at us. I put my hearing aids in, and as I did this Nellie jumped on the bed again and placed herself between him and the children. I told the man to leave and eventually he did. During the whole episode, Nellie did not flinch but sat and protected the children with her body." Gill blesses the day that Nellie came to live with them.

Nellie was named the Heroic Hearing Dog of the Year by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. This award is given to hearing dogs that "have acted above and beyond the call of duty, or used their training to avert possible danger or tragedy. "(Nellie is) a heroic dog that has not only given a new lease of life to Gill, but also given her son his childhood back," explained judge Matt Baker. "In addition, she prevented what could have been a potentially horrendous ordeal occurring. A hero in anyone's eyes."

Gill agrees. "If Nellie had not been there that night, I would not have heard the man come into the room. He could have taken the children without my knowing. The children love her and are very proud of her. They know that she helps their mum keep them safe."