TEENAGER Lauren Brooks has had her life transformed thanks to a very special companion - her hearing dog Sam.
The 13-year-old has described her specially trained labrador Sam as being “like a brother” after receiving the dog from the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf Children.
Lauren’s father, Nottinghamshire policeman Simon Brooks, described to the Journal this week the profound affect Sam has had on Lauren and the family.
He said: “Sam has made a big difference to Lauren but he has also made a big difference to the family in general.”
Lauren, of Navenby, was born profoundly deaf but was not diagnosed until she was 18-months.
Mr Brooks said: “We did not have a clue until we got to a year or 14 months and we realised she was not reacting to noises.
“Nowadays children are tested before they leave the hospital but unfortunately that wasn’t around when Lauren was born.”
Lauren had an operation to fit a cochlear implant which gave her a very limited sense of hearing.
Then three years ago the family came across the hearing dogs programme.
Mr Brooks said: “We went to a National Deaf Children’s Society Family Fun Day and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People had a stand there. We had never heard of hearing dogs before and they were just starting a new project.
“We decided to apply but thought we wouldn’t get a look in.”
However, following thorough assessments Lauren received Sam.
Mr Brooks said: “What Sam does is help Lauren to hear sounds which she can’t ordinarily hear. Things like a smoke alarm, a cooker timer or an alarm clock.
“If the smoke alarm goes off he nudges her twice or until she reacts. If he lies down it means there is danger and Lauren knows to grab Sam and leave the house.
“When her alarm clock goes off he jumps on her bed and if that doesn’t work he pulls the duvet off.”
Sam has given Lauren greater confidence and independence as well as making her safer.
Mr Brooks said: “Before we had Sam, when we went out Lauren would just walk off in a world of her own and she couldn’t hear us calling her back. As she has got older she becomes responsible for Sam now so without thinking about it she is safer because when she is taking care of Sam she is also taking care of herself.”
Lauren is grateful to have Sam helping her through life.
She said: “Sam is like my brother. He makes me feel proud and happy.
“I feel safe around him.”
l For more info on hearing dogs log on to www.hearingdogs.org.uk