Bailey, a labrador/retriever cross, stole all our hearts when Pam and Geoff Harper brought him along to our meeting in July. Bailey is learning to be a Hearing Dog for deaf people and Pam and Geoff are his socialisers. Bailey has been placed with Pam and Geoff whilst he undergoes his training and will live with them for about a year until he goes off to the training centre and then onto live and work with a deaf person. Pam told us about the journey for these special dogs right from when they are first bred, through all their training until they are ready to be placed with a recipient. Pam and Geoff’s role is to teach him obedience and social skills and to help him to become familiar with various sounds. Bailey is already learning to nudge Pam when he hears the alarm clock sound and he demonstrated this skill very well. As time goes on he will learn to respond to doorbells, telephone rings and most importantly a fire alarm. The dogs either lead the deaf person to the sound or, in the case of a fire alarm, will lie down blocking the deaf person’s path to signify danger. The dogs can also be trained to respond to the specific needs of the recipient. Unlike Dogs for the Blind, we are encouraged to speak and (with permission) pat Hearing Dogs as it is important that they become familiar with people. With hearing loss increasing in the UK, the benefits that having one of these dogs brings are vital as not only do they help alert deaf people to danger, they also provide independence, confidence and companionship and help relieve stress, isolation and loneliness that deafness often brings.
Ten members left Papworth on the 8 July for a very memorable visit to Bletchley Park. I think we were all so impressed and proud of the brilliant work that the Code Breakers did during World War 2, working around the clock in shifts 7 days a week. It is said that they shortened the war by 2 years and saved countless lives. Bletchley Park is also where the world’s first electronic computers were installed and operated. On the tour round there are many points with interactive machines, so you can have a go at being a code breaker.
All in all a very good day out, and one that made you proud to be British.
Another inspirational speaker kept us enthralled this month and once again food was the theme for our meeting in June as our speaker, Veronica Hewins, demonstrated authentic Indian cookery. Whilst she cooked, Veronica explained to us the key elements in Indian cookery to ensure health: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. As she used the various spices she had brought along, she described the health benefits of each. At various states as she prepared a chicken curry, we were able to have a closer look. Veronica also cooked a potato and cauliflower aloo gobi. Whilst we tasted the finished dishes, Veronica recounted her life story. Her father was a railway worker and her very early life was reasonably comfortable until he retired and then through a series of circumstances she found herself in abject poverty in India. Her mother was mentally disturbed and the stigma of this ruined her marriage prospects until a marriage was arranged for her to a bank employee in England. Through these early experiences Veronica’s faith has been a mainstay and she has learnt to appreciate the good in life. A favourite saying of her’s is if life throws lemons at you, learn to make lemonade. Veronica believes in using the skills you have and so she turned to her cooking and teaching skills to demonstrate Indian cooking. We all felt we’d had a most enjoyable evening.