RUNNING around the living room cheerfully playing with his treasured pooch, little James Cheung couldn’t be happier.
The youngster then stops, sits down and flicks through a book all about dogs before cuddling three-year-old Kurt, his “best friend”.
James’s mum, Louise, looks on fondly as her beloved 11-year-old son, who is deaf, happily chats away to Kurt, a hearing dog.
The golden Labrador Retriever is specially trained to alert James to important household sounds, be it ringing alarm clocks, beeping smoke detectors or knocks at the door.
But in addition to that vital role, Kurt acts a confidence-instilling companion, an astute chum with a constant watchful eye on only-child James.
Louise, 43, of Staffa Drive, Tibshelf, said: “James always responds quickly to Kurt’s nose nudges to alert him to sounds.
“He had sleep anxieties, which he was being treated for, but now that Kurt sleeps with him in his bedroom he feels much happier when he takes out his hearing aids at night.”
She added: “I’ve seen an overwhelming transformation in James’s confidence.
“Before, he used to be very fearful of dogs and found it difficult to start conversations with people, but not any more.
“Now, he loves dogs and will talk to people about Kurt and ask questions about their pets.”
James, a pupil at Town End Junior School, suffers from IMAGe Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic condition which causes deafness and affects his growth and development.
The youngster was one of 12 partnered with a dog by the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as part of a national pilot project last year.
The scheme has proved so successful that the charity plans to train and match more hearing dogs with deaf children.
Louise said: “It’s hard to imagine what life was like before we got Kurt – he’s such an important addition to our household.”
James beamed: “I absolutely love him. He’s my best friend.”
For more information about Hearing Dogs for Deaf People and to donate to the charity, log on to www.hearingdogs.co.uk.
l Do you own a hearing dog? How has it transformed your life? Email email@example.com.