Hearing Dog Elroy and recipient Helen, with Lions Club of Mount Panorama

My mother had rubella early on during her pregnancy due to an epidemic in Bathurst, however, there was no spots.

Fast forward to 1978, when I was pregnant with my first child. I was asked if I knew why I was deaf. Well, a blood test later showed that I had congenital deafness, and there was no doubt to the cause of it. 

My parents had realised my hearing was affected when I was around 5 to 6 months old; they saw I was not responding to rattle and other noisy toys. It was when I was 3 years old that I finally had my hearing tested. 

I was diagnosed as having moderate to severely profound hearing loss. 

I think my parents were relieved more than anything else when my hearing loss was confirmed. Their gut instinct was proven correct. After talking to audiologists, speech pathologists and social workers, they were determined to bring me up to be ‘hearing’ rather than deaf. And to achieve this, Mum and I would travel by train, which was four and a half hours, to Sydney once every six weeks to the National Acoustic Laboratory where I would have intensive speech therapy. 

The importance of my fitting into hearing society had made my life hard. I was always made sure to behave appropriately in hearing society, despite the challenges I faced. 

One good thing did come out of my intensive speech therapy, I had learnt to read as I learnt to talk!

As I grew up, I gradually became aware that I was different, and that others saw me as different. I was one of the very few children with a disability visible in Bathurst. I was treated differently; a lot of people treated me as if I had a mental deficiency.

When I received my first Hearing Assistance Dog, Andy, I did not know what to expect!

Andy quickly became my shadow. He gave me the confidence to go to places I wouldn’t normally go, even helping me by reacting to when people called my name!

Andy and I bonded immediately, as though we had always been together. I started to relax when I knew Andy could recognise David’s seizures. David, my son, has Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, a form of epilepsy that could result in brain trauma. As a young child, he would have 100+ seizures in a day. Not being able to hear him meant I would have to keep him where I could see him. Andy alleviated that worry every time he alerted me to those seizures. 

Helen & Andy

He saved David's life.

I remember I was making final preparations before leaving for college when Andy started running between me and the garage door, his actions more and more insistent until I checked. Andy immediately bolted for my car and I saw David on the floor, in the middle of a severe clonic-tonic seizure. My daughters helped me move David onto the bed, while Andy jumped onto the bed and repeatedly licked David’s face. After three attempts to bring him out of the seizure, we took him to the hospital. Andy was in the car with David during the ride, licking him continuously. The specialist afterwards told me that had Andy not constantly stimulated David by licking his face, we could well have lost him that day, or possibly he could have sustained serious brain damage. It was interesting to see my parents-in-law, who had been very critical of my getting a Hearing Dog, becoming very good advocates for the program after that!

My husband and children all adored him. He was loyal to everyone in the family.

Having Andy, and now Elroy – my Hearing Assistance Dog since August 2022 – has made me feel safer. 

They gave me the confidence in knowing I will not miss any visitors. Both dogs loved seeing visitors and so they share a mutual level of excitement when they knew someone was coming! With Elroy, he is now overcoming his initial reluctance to respond to the alarm clock now that he knows he’s allowed to jump on the bed and ‘annoy’ me, he delights in making sure I don’t go back to sleep! On more than one occasion I have been grateful for this as he makes sure I won’t miss any important appointments.

I have noticed my anxiety levels have come down considerably over the last few weeks since I had Elroy.

Things like watching the streets are now a thing of the past. He is a wonderful companion and he is good with my cat, Marty; an affectionate fur sibling! 

Here in Bathurst, people know that I am Deaf. This doesn’t stop people trying to communicate in ways that makes it hard for me! Like Andy was, Elroy is a silent reminder to them that I need to see people’s faces! He is the best kind of ice breaker. It is a great opportunity to chat to people about how isolating deafness can be, and the role of a Hearing Dog in dispelling that isolation. 

Children would come up and ask about Elroy’s jacket, and I’d explain his role in my life, why they cannot pat him, and instead I’d let Elroy go up to them and say hello in his own way, which they’d always like. 

When I compare what life was like over a year ago and now, well, there is no comparison!

Andy and Elroy are two very different dogs with completely opposite personalities! Andy was a total goofball who loved nothing bettter than to have a game with his human siblings when he wasn’t working.

Elroy is a more restrained boy who sees his job as making sure his human is okay at all times! I admit I was worried that my memories of Andy would play into my affections for Elroy. However, Elroy has a way of worming his way into my heart and arms! 

As our journey is very new, Elroy and I still have a bit of work to do in certain areas, but already he is my shadow. And while he delights in talking to other people, 

he will always return to be with me as soon as he possibly can!

Elroy and Marty