When Gill Houghton, of Brighton, East Sussex in England, lost her hearing, her world fell apart. "I was alone with a 10-year-old son and a 15-month-old daughter," said Gill. "My son had to tell me when the doorbell went and when my daughter cried in the night. My son even had to deal with phone calls to the police for me."
Then Nellie came into her life. Nellie is a Hearing Dog that has been trained to alert her owner to everyday household sounds such as doorbells, the telephone, the cooker timer and the alarm clock. When sounds occur, the dog is trained to gently touch their owners with their paw and lead them to the source of the sound. If a danger sound occurs, the dog will alert and drop straight to the floor.
Since Nellie, a black Lab has been with the Houghton family, she has made a huge difference in Gill's life. "Having Nellie has helped in a lot of ways, but the most important one is that she has freed my son from lots of responsibilities. I can relax now that Nellie will tell me about things. I no longer sit up at night worrying about the smoke alarm. Also, people no longer think that I am rude and ignoring them."
During a recent vacation, the family and Nellie were staying at a bed and breakfast. "It was the middle of the night and Nellie woke me," explained 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."
Because of her brave deed, Nellie has been named the Heroic Hearing Dog of the Year by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, which is also the company that trained her. This annual award is given to hearing dogs that go above and beyond the call of duty or use their training to avert possible danger or tragedy. The award was presented by Judge Matt Baker who stated, "A heroic dog that has not only given a new lease of life to Gill, but (has) also given her son his childhood back. In addition, she has prevented what could have been a potentially horrendous ordeal occurring. A hero in anyone's eyes."