How a Hearing Dog called Bella helped ex police officer Geraldine Winhall from Norfolk get her life back on track
When deafness ended Geraldine Winhall’s career in the Police Service, she became very depressed. But after being given her Hearing Dog Bella, and help from the national charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Geraldine found her life heading back to normal.
Previously working as a custody officer in the police service, as her hearing deteriorated due to ear infections, an already challenging job became even more so.
Geraldine loved her job and was confident, challenged and fulfilled. But when she left the service, she found life as a deaf person very difficult.
Geraldine Winhall said: “I just felt so uncertain all the time. I would mishear people, and they would get irritated or angry with me. It was very upsetting. I still remember the time, at the train station, when I didn’t know there was an announcement. I kept talking to my sister, so a lady started shouting at me to be quiet. My sister explained to her that I was deaf, but the damage was done. I felt so humiliated.”
Slowly Geraldine lost her confidence and became more and more unhappy. It was then on a trip to her therapist that they recommended her to the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.
Whilst Geraldine retreated from life, hearing dog Bella was being trained, thanks to the kindness of donations. Bella was being taught how to be a good, obedient dog, then how to be an amazing hearing dog. And then, she was matched with Geraldine.
Geraldine said: “Since having hearing dog Bella by my side, I don’t feel lonely, or depressed, or frightened. I feel confident in leaving the house, because people see Bella’s burgundy coat, and they know I’m deaf. Instead of treating me like an inconvenience, people now come up to me and make conversation. They go out of their way to be helpful, and talk clearly to enable me to lip read.It’s a total transformation at home too. For example, I don’t have to wait at the window when I’m expecting people to visit. Instead, Bella hears the doorbell, gives me a little nudge with her nose, and leads me to the door. “
Thanks to people who volunteer and donate there are 930 working hearing dog partnerships across the UK. The Hearing Dogs vision is to help change even more lives, they aim to increase the number of dogs trained to 200 a year by 2020.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People celebrates 35 life-changing years this year. Founded at Crufts in 1982, the charity opened its main office and training centre – The Grange – in Saunderton in 1999. The renovated farmhouse and outbuildings is still home to the head office and training centre today.
The effects of hearing loss can be devastating. The lack of independence, loss of confidence, reduced self-esteem and feelings of anxiety can lead to loneliness, isolation and often depression. Hearing Dogs transform their recipient’s lives by providing a special kind of independence and companionship.
By donating, even a small amount will help more puppies to be trained and to become amazing hearing dogs like Bella, and help turn deaf people’s lives around.
To find out more and watch a video about Geraldine please click here.