|Students witness how intelligent and useful pet dogs can e at Fengsheng Children's Palace in Beijing. [Photo by Xu Lin/China Daily]|
Guide dogs for the hearing impaired are now available in China, serving as good ears for those without hearing ability.
More than 60 primary and middle school students in Fengsheng Children's Palace, Beijing's Xicheng district, recently witnessed how intelligent and useful these dogs are.
Upon hearing a smoke alarm, 4-year-old dog Pan jumped and put its paws on its owner Liu Yan's legs and led her to where the sound came from.
"Pan is like my family. She makes my life easier by hearing everything for me," says Liu, an editor at a pet magazine in Beijing. She lost her hearing at 11 because of a disease.
Pan's orange uniform reads "hearing dog". It is an assistant dog to those with impaired hearing and is capable of alerting people to sounds, including telephone ringing, doorbells and timer.
Liu and Pan, together with hearing dog trainer Zhen Pengpeng and her dog Yaya, demonstrated skills of hearing dogs and share their experience to the students.
With Pan, Liu doesn't have to worry about that she'll forget turning off her gas stove when boiling water or not knowing when someone knocks at her door. She's more confident now. Liu lip reads and is able to communicate with others.
Fengsheng Children's Palace and the China Beijing Kennel Club co-organized the activity to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which will be celebrated on Dec 3. The aim of the event is to encourage children to care for the physically challenged and small animals, and promote dog-raising knowledge.
For most of the children, it's the first time they have heard about hearing dogs.
"I learned a lot from the activity. These cute dogs are very helpful to those with hearing impairment," says Xu Qihan, 12, who has a 4-year-old Samoyed at home.
According to the club, there are more than 230,000 people with hearing loss in Beijing but China has only a few hearing dogs donated by other countries before this year. Japan Hearing Dogs Training Society gave Pan to Liu in February 2012.
In 2011, the club started the first hearing dogs public-service program in China and last year, invited a Japanese expert to teach 10 Chinese volunteers ways to train a hearing dog.
Dogs that are alert to voices and friendly with people have the potential to be trained into hearing pets. The trainers teach homeless dogs so that the animals can be part of the society, and at the same time, help those in need.
Like other volunteers, Zhen trains Yaya three times a day at 15 minutes each time. She trains the dog basic skills like being stationed at a spot, and identifying different voices at home.
She says waiting is an important skill as a hearing dog, which may have to wait for its master outside the supermarket, and Yaya's record is 30 minutes.
Only four dogs have completed the one-year training and become the first batch of hearing dogs trained by Chinese.
The club has been interviewing applicants to choose suitable masters for the dogs. Some candidates, however, have never raised a dog before and don't know how to be with dogs. Some don't know sign language and it's difficult for them to communicate with dog trainers.
Zhen says she will teach Yaya's future master interactive skills with the dog, such as how to give orders. She will also train Yaya to be familiar with the voices at the master's home.
"It's not easy to find a suitable owner. An ideal master should communicate well with our dog trainer and be responsible for the dog. One should treat the dog well," says Wang Yue from the club.
"I hope the society and enterprises can pay attention to our program. We welcome more volunteers to join us and people with hearing loss to apply for hearing dogs," Zhen says.