Hearing dog who saved diabetic owner’s life inspires Dereham fundraising appeal

A diabetic deaf woman whose hearing dog saved her life by learning to tell her when she needs insulin has appealed for help to reach a �1,000 fundraising target.

Anne Holmes said Odell, a six-year-old Yorkshire terrier and toy poodle cross, had transformed her life since the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People brought them together in August 2007.

The 67-year-old has been profoundly deaf since birth, and said: 'I was a very lonely person and did not converse. I spent a lot of time in bed or on the computer. I could not hear what people were saying and I was afraid of not understanding what they were saying, and I was frightened of being on my own in the house.'

Mrs Holmes, who lives in Quebec Road, Dereham, and her husband Frank, 89, spent a week living with Odell at the charity's Buckinghamshire base while she was training to respond to specific sounds.

She alerts her owner to the doorbell, smoke alarm and cooker timer, and if Mr Holmes shouts 'Call Anne' because he needs help she runs to Mrs Holmes, taps her and leads her to him.

And since Mrs Holmes became insulin dependent two years ago, Odell has learned to recognise changes in her body that show her blood sugar is getting too low, and wakes her up or tugs at the duvet.

Mrs Holmes said: 'The first time she did it I didn't realise what she was doing and my sugar had dropped to 2.2, which is very low. If she had not woken me I could have gone in a diabetic coma. She saved my life.

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'She will follow me and sit and watch me while I'm doing my injection. If I have not done it she will nudge me with her nose until I do it.'

With the confidence Odell has given her to leave the house, the pair have become well-known characters in Dereham and her husband jokes he no longer walks through town with them because so many people stop for a chat.

The couple met ten years ago, and Mr Holmes said: 'When I first met Anne she would always walk behind me or anyone she was with. With the dog she is good as anyone else.'

Mrs Holmes now gives talks to local groups and raises funds for the charity so it can help other people with hearing difficulties.

She set herself a target of raising �1,000 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People to mark its 30th anniversary, and has already collected �850.

Contact Mrs Holmes at frank.holmes4@btinternet.com or write to 12 Quebec Hall Bungalows, Quebec Road, Dereham, NR19 2QY, or see hearingdogs.org.uk for information about the charity.