Meet hearing dog recruit Travis

A puppy socialiser for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People hopes to encourage more people to volunteer to help train dogs like Travis.

A puppy socialiser from Honiton is hoping her “wonderful experience” of helping to train a hearing dog will encourage others to volunteer.

Jo Nicoletti has been working with six-month-old, puppy-in-training, Travis, since he was three-months old - helping him on his journey to becoming a hearing dog for the deaf.

The 74-year-old, who suffers from tinnitus, was inspired to become a socialiser for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People after attending a meeting of the hearing support group Sound Out, which is based in the town.

After applying to become a volunteer socialiser she was teamed up with the golden retriever to begin his training regime.

“I have been learning ever since” admits Jo. “Travis is making good progress, this is a new learning curve for the both of us and as a long-time dog owner I am surprised how much more I have picked up about training dogs in the past few months.”

As part of her duties as a socialiser Jo is responsible for getting Travis used to travelling on all different forms of transport, going into busy shops and cafes, as well as learning basic commands.

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She said: “At the moment he is learning how to do recall and is living up to his name as a retriever. Travis will be used to recognise sounds. Things like alarms, doorbells, telephones and fire alarms.”

When the young puppy is not busy training he enjoys watching a spot of television and particularly likes Coronation Street - especially the theme tune.

Hearing dogs help those with hearing difficulties to find independence, confidence and companionship and often help them to socialise with others.

Travis has also been an important part of Jo’s life and has helped her to meet new people after recently moving to the area.

He has proved to be a popular face in the town attracting attention from passers by in the street and fellow dog walkers who are curious to find out more about him.

“It has been a wonderful experience which has had the added bonus of introducing me to many of the residents of Honiton who stop and ask me about my work,” adds Jo. “I am glad I have had the experience of doing it.”

She says she would recommend it to others especially older people, if they are able to, who may be feeling lonely. Once Travis completes all of his training he will be awarded his burgundy hearing dog jacket and will be placed with his new companion.

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a non-government funded charity and relies on donations. It is a world leader in the training of hearing dogs.

A spokesman for the charity said: “Volunteering remains vital to the continued success of the charity. They play a huge part in helping to create future partnerships between hearing dogs and deaf people so the more volunteers we recruit, the more lives we are able to change.

“Hearing dogs bring new levels of independence, confidence and companionship to a deaf person as well as helping to remove some of the loneliness and isolation that deafness – which is in essence, an invisible disability – can unfortunately create.”

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