Buster to make a difference

Castlemaine Lions Club members, Geraldine Rye, Ron Gartside, Ken McKimmie, Marie Elrington, and Australian Lions Hearing Dogs project director Darren Coldwell, are pictured with Buster and happy recipient, Helen.

Lisa Dennis

The Lions Club of Castlemaine presented a hearing assistance dog ‘Buster’ to local resident Helen last week.

The spritely tenterfield terrier is the first assistance animal the local club has provided in the Castlemaine region and Lions volunteers will be working closely with Helen over the next three months to assist with reinforcing Buster’s training as he settles into his new home.

Helen told the Express she had enjoyed the first few days bonding with her new companion.

“The training has been quite intense but Buster will make a huge difference to our lives,” she said.

Helen explained that she wore two cochlear implants two assist her to hear during the day, but at night without her devices she was unable to hear the smoke alarm or other sounds in the event of an emergency.

“My husband Joe has had a number of falls, without my aids I can’t hear him call out. Buster is trained to alert me to these sounds or if Joe needs my assistance.

“He will come and gently tap me to alert me something’s wrong,” she said.

Just like a guide dog, Buster has public access privileges and can also accompany Helen into shops, supermarkets and on public transport.

“I’m told the first family in Finland have just taken delivery of two tenterfield terriers, apparently they are all the rage so we feel we are in esteemed company with young Buster,” Helen laughed.

“He has been trained not to toilet when we are out and not to jump up on people or sniff things at the shops. He is a real gentleman.”

Australian Lions Hearing Dogs program director Darren Coldwell travelled from South Australia to deliver Buster last week and undertake training with local Lions volunteers.

Darren said Buster was purchased from a registered breeder at eight weeks old and placed in their puppy foster program for eight months before undertaking six months of training at their headquarters in South Australia.

“Dogs are provided to recipients free of charge thanks to the support of the Lions,” he said.

“We have a really high success rate due to the support of Lions members in volunteering their time to help reinforce the training of each dog.”

Darren said the tenterfield terriers were small and well suited to the role of hearing assistance dog.

“While they require premium quality food they only cost around $1 a day to run, unlike their larger labrador counterparts,” he said.

Castlemaine Lions Club member Ron Gartside said they were proud to be able to make a small but important difference to Helen’s life.

“This is something we have been working towards for about two years now and we are thrilled to see the project come to fruition,” Ron said.

“The project was made possible thanks to the community support of Lions fundraisers such as our annual Swap Meet.”