A hearing dog guide helps Ottawa woman identify sounds

Meaghan Martin is an educational assistant at Vincent Massey Public School. Her hearing dog guide, Olive alerts her to important sounds. (Peter Szperling/CTV News Ottawa)

For anyone that has waited at home for a service appointment, like a repairperson, there is always a bit of anxiety of missing the doorbell during that 'four-hour window'.

For Meaghan Martin, who was born deaf, "It meant I had to sit right in front of the door."

Although Martin is very independent, doorbells, knocking and alarms are a challenge.  Safety was also a concern; although she has a flashing fire alarm, she was concerned whether the light would be strong enough to wake her up in an emergency.

Thanks to Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, she was matched with Olive, a hearing dog guide.

"It gives me that peace of mind knowing that, in the event of an emergency, she’s there for me," Martin tells CTV News Ottawa.

Olive alerts Martin to sounds that are important, like alarms, doorbells, knocking at the door and kitchen timers.

"That means I burn a lot less food than I used to," she laughs.

Martin works as an Educational Assistant at Vincent Massey Public School in Ottawa.

"I support students who are deaf and hard of hearing," Martin said, adding Olive is by her side at work.

"They love her," she says. "I think she sets a good example for the students as well."

Martin says Olive has also received additional training specific to schools, such as the ability to identify and alert her to key sounds in the school environment that require staff response such as, "secure school".

According to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, dogs are provided to all handlers free of charge; however, each cost approximately $35,000 to raise, train and place.

"Between the seven programs, I think they have, at the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guide School, every one of them contributes tremendously to the lifestyle of the clients," says Tom Feltmate of the Kanata-Hazeldean Lions Club.

The organization is raising funds through the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides on May 29.

"Certainly, it’s important to all of our Lions," says Feltmate.

The event takes place in approximately 300 communities across Canada, including Ottawa, Kanata and Stittsville.

To donate, visit www.walkfordogguides.com