When Ken Scott’s beloved hearing dog Spike retired earlier this year, Ken thought he would never be able to replace him.
Spike, now 14, had acted as Ken’s ‘ears’ for nine years and the pair were inseparable.
Together, they’d raised more than £20,000 for the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and given hundreds of talks to raise awareness of a condition Ken calls ‘an invisible disability.’
So it was with both sadness and trepidation that Ken hung up Spike’s uniform for the final time.
But fast forward six months and Ken – and Spike – couldn’t be happier.
Spike – who, ironically, is going deaf – is enjoying a well-earned retirement with Ken’s partner Sandra Donaldson at her home in Auchtermuchty, while Ken is enjoying forging a new relationship with two-year-old Olly, who’s following in Spike’s pawprints
“It’s like he’s been with me forever,” says Ken.
“I’ve had him for 10 weeks now and he’s just brilliant.
“Even though he’s not 100 per cent trained, he helps me in so many ways. It’s remarkable how much of Spike I see in Olly.
“Spike hasn’t had his nose put out of joint at all and the two get on really well. It couldn’t have worked out better.”
Indeed, some might say it was fate that brought Ken and Olly together.
“I first met Olly on a dog walk at Hill of Tarvit held by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People,” said Ken.
“There were about 100 dogs there but Olly stood out and I knew he was the one for me.
“However it’s practically unheard of to get the dog you ask for and Olly was partnered with a lady.
“Luckily for me, she decided she wasn’t ready and I got the surprise of my life when I was told he was coming home with me. It’s opened up a whole new chapter in my life.”
It takes some £5000 and a demanding training programme before a dog is ready to be placed with a deaf person.
Like Spike and Olly, poodles and cockapoos – cocker spaniel/poodle crosses – are commonly chosen, not just because they’re highly intelligent but also because they don’t shed their hair, making them suitable for allergy sufferers.
Ken suffers from the distressing condition tinnitus, which has not only robbed him of his hearing but also causes what he describes as a ‘screaming’ sound in his ears that never lets up.
Nevertheless he’s determined to continue raising awareness of the problems faced by the deaf and hard of hearing.
Any groups or schools who’d like a visit from Ken, Spike and Olly can call Sandra on 01337 828133.