The call for help came on a sunny summer’s evening from a breeder friend of mine who lived in the North Island. She had placed a little Swedish Vallhund named Rosie into what seemed an ideal country home in the South Island. However her vision of Rosie's paradise it seemed was in tatters and fast becoming a nightmare.  I lived a stone throw away from Rosie's home and my friend knew I was experienced and qualified in the animal welfare industry.   She was phoning to ask me to visit them, and if necessary recover Rosie.  I immediately contacted Rosie's owners and arranged to visit them the next day.When I arrived at Rosie's home I was greeted by a pack of mixed dogs that looked to be running amok.

The owners invited me into the house along with the chaotic, jostling dogs.  We sat down to chat and in the course of the conversation it transpired that another bitch causing problems had recently been destroyed for her unruly behaviour. The owners told me Rosie was being singled out for the same fate as they had determined that she also was a troublemaker, ringleader and official disturber of the peace. Observing the dogs, I noted they were very uncomfortable with me, generally fearful and appeared to be lacking the happy behaviour of socialised dogs.  Next I was told the only place the dogs seemed to feel secure was when they were put to bed at night in a chicken coop! 

After assessing the situation I managed to convince the owners to release Rosie to me rather than have her put to sleep.  They agreed to this, but as we walked towards the car the owners hailed me saying they had changed their mind.  Desperate for the little dog I set to convincing them again to let her go and was very relieved when we were finally able to leave.  As I pulled out on to the main road Rosie, the poor girl, had nervously pasted herself flat to the floor of my vehicle.  When I got home I phoned the breeder to update her and then proposed Rosie stay with me for assessment and rehabilitation. She quickly agreed.Anyone that knows Vallhunds will tell you most are ball, stick and toy mad.  My own Vallhund will happily play fetch for hours. The first time I picked up a stick to throw for the dogs Rosie disappeared! She had hidden under the house and wouldn’t come out. It took a lot of coaxing to recover her and needless to say we didn’t play fetch a stick with Rosie again.   This was just one of the behavioural obstacles we faced.  Some of Rosie's other behavioural hurdles were her fear of strangers approaching, different objects, other animals and car travel.   As her socialising and rehabilitation progressed, she started to come out of her shell.   It wasn’t long before I realised that her previous owner's assessment of her was completely wrong. Rosie was a sweet, loving dog and all she wanted to do was please. 

Seven months later a friend of mine came over for a visit and was totally taken with Rosie, and Rosie with him.   After a few visits he asked if he could give Rosie a permanent home. Adam had a gentle, considerate way about him and since he came from a knowledgeable doggie background it was an easy decision to let Rosie go. Adam took Rosie everywhere with him; to work, on  holidays, out and about.   Rosie quickly became well loved by everyone in Adam's world.  This was the happy ending Rosie deserved, or so I thought.  Eighteen months later Adam was in an horrific accident that had justify him paralysed and no longer able to care for Rosie.  It was a devastating situation for them both.   Adam's neighbours took over caring for Rosie at the time of the accident.  They were volunteers for the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People organisation.  Keen to help re-home Rosie, so that Adam could concentrate on his own plight it was suggested she was passed on to Hearing Dogs for Deaf People for assessment.



 Part two, - Riches -  By Clare McLaughlin,

Director of Services Hearing Dogs 

for Deaf People New Zealand.

The Swedish Vallhund Rosie was a little older than we would normally consider for training when she arrived with us for assessment.  But she was quick to win the hearts at the staff at the Training Centre. She was very obedient and took to the ‘sound work’ lessons with a passion. After training she was matched with her recipient Dianne Luckens and went to begin another phase in her life in Auckland.

Dianne had a brain tumour removed and unfortunately the hearing nerve was cut. Although she is not profoundly deaf her hearing is impaired severely and she is unable to hear lots of the everyday sounds in the home. Once Hearing Dogs for Deaf received Dianne's application it wasn’t too long before Rosie was considered as her aid. When they were matched Rosie and Dianne became one of nearly 50 hearing dog/recipient partnerships in New Zealand today.

Rosie immediately loved Dianne’s gentle but consistant manner and soon became a very reliable assistance dog. Rosie hears the sound (for example the door bell ringing) and goes to Diane and paws her gently on the leg, Diane asks “where is it” while gesturing her hands in an outward motion, Rosie then leads Diane to the source of the sound, Rosie is always eager to receive a “treat” for her efforts and this reward training is what keeps the job alive for Rosie and for that matter most Hearing Dogs.


Rosie is ‘the ears’ for Dianne, alerting her to people coming to the home, the phone ringing, her alarm clock and the cooker timer. Rosie starts every morning with a play of running up and down the hall way after Storm (the cat) who is the other animal in the home, Storm is insistant on teasing Rosie from high places, but after their ‘mad moments’ up and down the hall they settle under the dining table to catch their breath. Rosie is well known by all the children as they pass on their way to and from school and whenever she can she sits at the front gate for a pat. Whenever they go out in public places Rosie wears her bright yellow ‘hearing dog jacket’ with pride as she walks to heal.

Apart from these tasks Rosie is always at Dianne’s side and Dianne is able to get a good night’s sleep knowing that Rosie will be there. With more surgery ahead for Dianne she says she can’t imagine going through this without her faithful assistant. Dianne says she “loves Rosie to bits” and of course Rosie doesn’t need to say anything as everyone can see her devotion to Dianne.

Little did anyone know that an unruly, unsocialised little dog that used to sleep in a chicken coop, would prove that you can teach a dog new tricks, saving her own life along the way and enriching the live's of others. The happy outcome of rags to riches did happen for Rosie in the end, just not how anyone expected.

March 2011


Sadly Dianne passed away shortly after this story went to print in the N.Z.K.C. magazine.  Rosie, was in 2012 the first recipient of the Lesley Gray Plaque and is retired now living with Dianne's husband, Philip.

Benefits of a Hearing Dog

Deafness is an 'invisible' disability.  It continues to be surrounded by misunderstanding.  As a result, many deaf and hearing impaired people often experience feelings of isolation, loneliness and frustration.  Apart from alerting the person to the sounds there are many other tangible benefits of Hearing Dogs for the Deaf.

A specially trained Hearing Dog can provide:

        • Enhanced self-confidence, self esteem and sense of well-being
        • Companionship
        • Greater independence
        • Increased security
        • Reduced stress
        • Social interaction
        • New interest and responsibilities
        • Moderate, regular exercise