- Language Tips
Liu Yan, 36, was walking with her dog Pan on the street in Beijing. The 2-year-old dog in an orange uniform suddenly jumped to put her paws on Liu’s legs the instant a woman in a bicycle behind them rang the bike’s bell.
Pan’s uniform reads “hearing dog”.
Pan is one of the few trained dogs in China that helps people with hearing disabilities by alerting them to important sounds, such as doorbells, ringing telephones, and smoke alarms.
“Pan is like my family. I can’t hear, so she hears everything for me,” said Liu, a web editor at a pet magazine in Beijing, who lost her hearing when she was 11 due to mumps.
In 1975, the first hearing dog was trained in the United States. In the US, the dogs can enter public places and public transportation freely, like guide dogs for the blind.
Since 1983, Japan also started to train hearing dogs. The China Beijing Kennel Club started the first public-service training program for hearing dogs in the country in June 2011.
Gift from Japan
The Japan Hearing Dogs Training Society gave Pan to Liu in February. A member of the staff of the Japanese organization, Gakuto Sasaki, is training a group of Chinese volunteers on how to train hearing dogs.
The volunteers will choose homeless dogs from?the Beijing Canine Shelter and Inspection Center located in Qiliqu Town, Changping district, and give them to people with hearing disabilities after the dogs are trained. According to the club, there are more than 230,000 people with hearing disabilities in Beijing.
Liu is one of the 10 volunteers and she’s eager to train a hearing dog to help people like her. Thanks to Pan, her life is much easier than before. For example, she doesn’t need to constantly check whether the water is boiled.
Pan alerts Liu by throwing herself into her or patting her after hearing various sounds, such as timers and alarms.
“Training a hearing dog is a lifetime learning process and we have to respect the dogs,” Sasaki said.
He said that only dogs that are alert to voices, reserved, and friendly to people can be chosen. Dogs that get excited when they see people or that hide from people are not suitable.
According to him, homeless dogs are a severe problem in many countries, and many are killed every year. To train them as hearing dogs is the best way to help them get back to society, and these dogs will strive to do their best.
However, there are some difficulties.
“In China, there are a lot of electric bicycles, which are not only fast, but also make little noise. It’s difficult for the dogs to be aware that an electric bicycle is nearby if the rider doesn’t ring the bell,” he said.
And Pan can’t go everywhere.
“As there is no such policy in China, I can’t take Pan on the subway, or buses and taxi drivers always refuse to take us. I hope that one day I can take Pan out on public transportation rather than leaving her at home,” Liu said.