Kirsten Callander was woken by hearing dog Pickle when the flat’s smoke alarm went off. When she looked through the front door peephole viewer, she saw smoke and flames billowing out of the neighbour’s flat. Without Pickle, Kirsten is convinced that she would have perished.
This is Kirsten’s story…
Life with deafness
I was born hearing, but around 2013, towards my late 20s, I developed the ear condition Ménière’s disease. This has caused me to be deaf in both ears.
It affected me in so many ways. I lost my friends because I couldn’t be the ‘fun’ me anymore. I felt shunned by the community, because I couldn’t hear what people were saying in shops or restaurants. They’d just stare at me because they didn’t know I was deaf.
I was always scared that something would happen when I went out alone. I was afraid that I would be the last to know about something important – that I could even die. But I also couldn’t be on my own in the flat, because I was constantly worried that a fire could start and I wouldn’t be able to hear it.
Little did I know that a hearing dog would help me through this worst of fears…
Along comes Pickle
I’ve had Pickle since 2018. She tells me about the alarm clock, the washing machine finishing, cooker timer for my food, my phone text alert, microwave, door buzzer to flat, fire alarm, when someone wants me, the shower temperature buzz when it is ready, and the pedestrian crossing. It’s quite a list!
So she’s great practically, but emotionally she’s invaluable. She lets the whole community know I need a bit of support and she’s helped me make friends again. I feel the world is accepting me for who I am now that I have her by my side. She’s my best friend – my life-changer and now, my lifesaver.
A terrifying ordeal
Normally, Pickle only comes onto the bed to tell me that the alarm has gone off in the morning, by giving me a little nudge with her nose. It’s a lovely way to wake up, with a happy dog ready to enjoy the day ahead.
However, one night, my fiancé (now husband) Matt and I were asleep in bed about 10.30pm, when Pickle came in and jumped on me suddenly. She was very persistent. As well as nose-nudges, she kept tapping me with her head and licking me.
I woke up and asked her ‘What is it?’, by holding my hands out, palms upward. This is usually the cue for Pickle to lead me to the source of a sound. This time however, she jumped off the bed and showed me the sign for danger, lying on the floor. This told me that there was a smoke alarm going off, but that she wasn’t going to lead me to it.
I smelled smoke. I opened the bedroom door expecting to be met with a fireball. I was so scared as I walked out into the living room. Still, I couldn’t see anything wrong, so I thought maybe it was nothing.
By this time, Pickle was very insistent. She kept following me, nudging me, and dropping to the floor.
This confirmed that something really wasn’t right, but I just couldn’t see any flames in the house. I was panicking. I opened the kitchen door and still couldn’t see anything.
Then, I felt the vibrations from the smoke alarm. Pickle was still showing me danger sign as I looked through the front door peephole viewer and saw flames and smoke billowing out from next door.
I dashed back to Matt and told him we needed to get out – now. We managed to get out of the flat and into the safety of the fire-fighters who had just arrived, and who later praised Pickle for a job well done.
We were due to get married the next week and, thanks to Pickle, this could still happen.
A wonderful day together
She also played an extra-special role on the big day. It meant a huge amount that she was our bridesmaid – it was a way of honouring her and giving her thanks for everything she does for me.
That wedding day might not have happened. If Pickle hadn’t have woken me up, we wouldn’t be here, simple as that.
Today, Pickle gives me peace of mind, knowing I can sleep safely, and nothing will ever happen to me, as she will be there no matter what.
She’s always there for me when I need here. She’s my very best friend, my soul mate – and now, my guardian angel too.
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and Hearing Link understand the impact hearing problems can have on your life. We are here to help and have a range of services to support deaf people, from our clever hearing dogs, to Helpdesk, and Support Group. For more information visit our website https://www.hearingdogs.org.uk/helpingyou/