Hearing Dog Smudge 2000-2012

9 11 2012

Dearest Smudge,

You came into my life 12 years ago. I was scared of dogs but I’d decided to give a Hearing Dog a chance and see what transpired. The first time I met you was at the Hearing Dogs training centre in Saunderton, Buckinghamshire. You were black as coal with huge brown eyes, and had boundless energy, looking into every corner of the room. You had stayed for 9 months with your foster mum and dad in Eastleigh, Margaret and George. They were kind enough to give me a photo album of you as a puppy, which I treasure to this day. After 3 months of sound work training in Saunderton, I visited again and we spent a week in the training suite, being trained to work together (mum needed much more training than you, you see!). I remember you laid on top of my bare feet at midnight to warm them up. We took the train home and I looked at you with a feeling of panic, thinking “I am now RESPONSIBLE for a living thing – help!”

Just sayin’ Hi!

I fell hook, line and sinker for your soft loving brown eyes and HUGE personality. You were such a cheeky boy, your constant pranks made me laugh. You were hard work at first, always trying to gain the upper hand. If we were about to leave the park, you would sit down and refuse to move. ‘Putting the brakes on’ was your speciality. You even did it in the middle of the road!

One day, we got off the train at London Waterloo, disembarking from the last carriage. We alighted onto the platform and you promptly put your brakes on and sat down. Everyone walked past us as they got off the train, and as the last person walked past and laughed at you being a silly billy, and at me trying to get you to walk, you looked at him, got up in delight and went over to him, and he just walked on (you never did learn the difference between commuters and regular people, darling). Then you obstinately planted your bum on the platform again. It was comical. I ended up picking you up and carrying all 12kg of you to the underground entrance …

I asked my Hearing Dogs placement officer Lou for tips on managing your stubbornness. Lou suggested cooking sausages, cutting them up, and feeding them to you as we walked along. That lasted for 5 minutes then you sat down again! Lou tried very hard to work with you and even she was beaten – we left you in the garden, went inside and called for you – “Come!” – after 15 minutes wait, you still wouldn’t come in … “Unbelievable. I’ve never seen such a stubborn dog!”

Biscuit time!

You were friendly towards other dogs, nervous as a young boy, then you displayed an ‘I’m better than you’ attitude as you got older, ignoring dogs barking so frantically from inside a car that it jumped around, sashaying silently past with your nose in the air. I was so proud of you. You were attacked by Guide Dogs for the Blind on 3 occasions, I think because you had been trained to make direct eye contact for sign language. You much preferred the company of humans with a friendly hand to lick. You had a playful nature and at Hearing Concern, you would go into the CEO’s office and chuck your ball at him, never mind that he kept sternly asking you to leave his office. Hee hee!

One of your many star qualities was your huge, fluffy, beautiful tail. That Tail! It never stopped wagging. You won a dog competition for ‘Dog with the Waggiest Tail’. Sometimes it looked like a whirligig, spinning around in circles so fast that I’d wonder if you were a dog or windmill. You were always such a happy boy, you made people smile every day with your friendly approach, engaging manner, bright white smile and that amazing whirligig tail. Even on the London underground, where commuters pretend no one else exists, you would be the centre of attention, approaching anyone that made eye contact, sometimes ten people were patting you at the same time, but usually you would walk your way around the carriage and I’d watch you work your magic. Recently, a singing beggar stood in the middle of the carriage and everyone looked away, but you stood right there and made full eye contact with him …. while I cringed in embarrassment and my friend Ginny fell about laughing.

Making friends on the fly

You were so endearing. Your favourite vet Alan van Heerden would marvel at the direct eye contact you made, making you seem almost human – and he always gave you treats! To me, you WERE a human who just happened to be furry with four legs and a tail …. we had a great communication thing going, didn’t we? You had been trained to alert me to sounds by touching me with your paw and leading me to the sound – except for the fire alarm, when you would touch me then lie down as a danger signal.

You were so intelligent that you took your training further and even cheated, pretending there was a sound so you could get your treat. If you were asked to find me, you would disappear around the corner and nip straight back without telling me I was wanted, just so you could get your reward. You would sometimes wake me at 4am and take me to the front door, sit there and look at me innocently and wag your tail, waiting for your biscuit – of course, no one was there… LOL.

Opening your birthday presents

Your favourite toy was always a tennis ball. We would roll one to each other, back and forth across the coffee table. If I got any of the cheap ones from the pet shop, you’d tear them apart. Only the best tennis balls would do!

I always loved your big feet. You had a very gentle touch if you had a request, just putting your huge paw on my arm and looking me straight in the eyes, until I asked “What is it?” and you led me to your biscuit tin, empty water bowl, or the door to the garden if you wanted a wee or were going to be sick. You would also come up and slap me if you Really Wanted Something Right Now.

Your face was so expressive. You had perfected “That Look” when someone said No. Your eyes could certainly talk and you could hold a steady gaze until the human looked away. If I went to give you a kiss on an ear, you were always quicker and got a kiss in first.

At Claire & Mike’s wedding, Sept 2012

I’ve had a number of strangers approach me and tell me they have a phobia about dogs but they really like you….  I’ve made so many lovely friends through you – you would approach strangers first and suck up the attention, and they would start talking to me. You were a real people magnet and had this charisma about you. I loved watching you flirt with everyone, you were a master in your art.

So good at communication, you knew when I was sad and would cuddle up to me. When I danced for joy at getting a job I wanted, you danced with me. You always came running when I laughed, just checking to make sure I was okay. When I shouted at security men who didn’t want you in their shop, you would pat my leg to calm me down. Another security man laughed as you stole a Cadbury’s Flake from the sweet counter and proudly carried it out of the shop (he let you keep it). You’re well known for stealing chocolate from shops. At Bluewater shopping centre one day, I looked over at you and you had stolen some child’s toy out of their pram. Such a kleptomaniac!

Meeting Sir Stelios, Oct 2012

You were so serious in your manner but there was an aura about you. You would listen to my chatter with your paw on my leg, gazing into my eyes with absolute adoration as we shared a TV snack. You were obsessed with licking people’s hands – you must have licked half of London on the tube on our commute each day. In 2004 you met Princess Anne (turning your back on her to watch me) and a few weeks ago you met Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou (giving him your magic touch).

You were asked to be brides-dog at Julia’s wedding, carrying the horseshoe up the church aisle to her – you did that job perfectly. A few weeks ago, you attended Claire and Mike’s wedding, and stole the show –again! You loved everyone and everyone loved, loved, loved you back.

At Julia’s wedding, 2008

You saw me change from someone who wouldn’t speak to a soul unless I was forced to, to someone who happily delivers lectures and is always the last one to leave a party. You helped me feel relaxed at home as I relied on your body language to let me know that we were safe, and I didn’t need to worry about strange sounds. You gave me comfort when family and friends passed away. You helped me to cope with profound deafness, and came into the hospital when I had my cochlear implant operations. You carried on helping me when I was trying to manage my very new, very strange but perfect, hearing. Above all, you were always, always happy to see me as I was you. I gave you as much love and as many walks as I could. We helped each other out and we were a solid team.

The trainers and placement officers at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – mostly Lou and Julie – have, over the years, remarked on how well behaved you were and how good you were at your job, alerting me so well to sounds at home and at work. You did give up on the alarm clock after a couple of years, as I didn’t like to get up too early, and I went back to a vibrating alarm clock. You were brilliant at all the other sounds, and became a little unreliable in the last few weeks as you didn’t really like to get out of bed in the mornings, leaving callers standing at the front door as I slept soundly….!

Playing in the fountain, Russell Square London, Aug 2012

You liked to steal people’s warm spots when they got out of bed to nip to the bathroom. You would always wait for me to wake up then come to me for a cuddle in bed, oh how I miss those morning cuddles. Apart from my bed, your favourite place was the sofa from where you gazed upon the world and could oversee your garden.

At work, you loved stealing onto a comfy chair, tripping up people as you lay in the corridor, and sleeping under the little tree in my office.  Your favourite place was the office kitchen – that room had the cleanest floor, thanks to you. I still laugh at the time Hurmine left a cupcake on her low filing cabinet, right at the back and under her desk (and so she thought, safe). She came back to find the cherry on top had gone as if someone had licked it right out of the icing … I couldn’t scold you, I was giggling too hard. You stole little oranges from Kathy’s bag (which were her lunch) and played with them, throwing them up and down the corridor. Karen’s sandwich wrapper went from her bin to your stomach and we had to visit the vet – again.

In the office

Once, I left a sandwich on a low coffee table and came back to find just one bite had been taken out of it, and you sat there pretending it wasn’t you. You actually dragged a whole baguette out of a hedge one day as I laughed in disbelief. In the park, you swiped a teenager’s sandwich from his hands as you ran past …. I even had a shopper ask me “Do you feed your dog?” Greedy didn’t even begin to describe you.

A favourite place was the beach, you lost your collar one day as you swam in up to your neck, and refused to come out of the water.  You loved swimming in rivers and the sea, but refused to get into a paddling pool I had dragged across Wimbledon for you. I got you your own lifejacket and we went sailing together.

I took you home to Belfast, you enjoyed being on an aeroplane, and we explored the Northern Irish beaches and forests while you charmed the hell out of my Irish friends.

The “A” Team

We loved endless walks in the parks nearby and I loved seeing you have a wonderful time swimming in the river and fighting off the ducks for the bread. I am so glad you enjoyed your forever home and garden so much, they were just perfect for you.

Now, the house is so horribly empty without you and I miss you every minute of every day. You changed my life so much for the better, brought so many people to me, and gave me (and many others) so much love and joy. You’re amazing. You’re a legend. You’ll always be in my heart.

I Love You Smudge. Sleep tight, much love and many kisses from mommy xxx




34 responses

9 11 2012
Sam Spritzer

Boy, you and that Smudge surely know how to make a grown man cry. Words simply cannot describe the love between you two. I am glad I was able to get to know him…virtually.

9 11 2012

Tears again, and just loving the video of that blurry, whirry tail!

9 11 2012
Howard Samuels

What a wonderful tribute to your caring dog, Tina! I enjoyed making direct eye contact with Smudge via Skype when we first met!

9 11 2012

He was a dear little dog and I have very fond memories of him: he always used to brighten my day when I was based at ULU. And I still have a few photos of him, including that lovely one where he is in a collar and tie – very elegant, a lovely boy.
I don’t know what happens when we die, but I would like to think that heaven has a new angel – one with a waggy tail and an enormous grin. In which case I hope that St Peter has a good sense of humour.

9 11 2012

Your Smudge, my Aria and my Seiko, and my … this was before my ears stopped hearing, my Fregne, who would run over hill and dale never minding where I was, who once was lost and lovingly picked up by a young boy on his morning paper route. You simply followed along and charmed his pants off…so even his mother said, “Ok, we’ll keep her”… But I found you!

Aria, who loves carrots and Greek yogurt. Aria, who insists on licking the bottom of the bucket on my “new” second-hand Persian runner. Aria who doesn’t take no for an answer when I tell that she cannot do that. Aria who finally got the message about “no bucket of yogurt on the runner” when, none too gently, I removed the bucket from between her huge paws and threw into the trash while she looked at me – woebegone.

Now, she runs upstairs whenever she sees the bucket – no thanks – I can see it in her eyes.

And Seiko – my girl – my-just-in-time Seiko.

We send love and many good wagging wishes to Smudge.

And to you, Tina!

9 11 2012


It was a pleasure and a joy to have worked with you and with Smudge. I remember Smudge doing his three months training at the centre. He was a star even then and then on the visits i made to you in London at home and at work he was always such a good boy (even when he was being stubborn!) I remember coming to your new office one day and practicing sounds and he did the call beautifully up three levels on his first day there. What a super little dog.
A partnership between a Hearing Dog and its owner is one of complete trust and love. I have had the pleasure to see this grow between you both and am so terribly sad to be reading this tribute. A more human like dog i don’t think i will ever see.

Smudge loved you as much as you loved him that was plain for all to see. Your heart is broken with this loss and the hole is so very big. May your memories and those of others bring you comfort and turn your tears of sadness to ones of happy remembrance. You and Smudge stuck by each other through thick and thin and the joy he brought you will one day make you smile with warm fondness.

Run free little Smudge. Your memory will always live on. It was a privilege to have known you. xxx

9 11 2012

we loved having you for holidays back in your puppyhood home. You enjoyed walking through the woods with the puppy we were socialising at the time. you made me laugh at your stubornness, you would sit in the middle of the woods and make it quite clear that you were not ready to go home yet. I had to walk back for you! thank you for the love you have given to so many people. Sleep tight, Smudge, until we all meet again over Rainbow bridge.

9 11 2012
Clive Courtney

Had the pleasure of meeting Smudge back in 2010. Just like my ex’s also a cockerpoo. Such fantastic companions, can only thank dogs for the deaf for all the great times. RIP Smudge.

9 11 2012

Beautiful Tina, a fitting tribute to a wonderful best friend. Much love and hugs. xxx

10 11 2012

I shall never forget Smudge snaffling a croissant from my bag while we were poring over the map in the British Library. I didn’t know which was funnier – Smudge’s ‘aren’t I a clever boy?’ expression or his mum’s totally aghast one!

He wasn’t that impressed by the British Library exhibition – Anglo-Saxon must be very boring for dogs – but he must have been among the most cultured dogs in London for all the gallery talks he attended!

10 11 2012

Tina, quite moved and sad to read this wonderful experience. May God help us all.

10 11 2012

My favourite memories of Smudge are when I first met him at Hearing Concern and he licked my toes under the table before laying his head on my knee, having him at our wedding and seeing him wipe his face on the floor at jobs 🙂 I have also always loved the photo you have of him in your office where he is smiling at the camera. He was indeed a beautiful, beautiful boy xxx

10 11 2012

He was an adorable cheeky thing. I remember once I took him in a sweet shop. I was so busy trying to lip read server I didn’t notice Smudge stealing and eating some Lind chocolate x let’s remember the happy times. x

10 11 2012

I never did meet Smudge, as he was situated on the other side of the pond! I had hoped to maybe get to shake his paw at next year’s HLAA convention. I have always thought that our pets (working or not) reflect the love they get from their owners. Smudge was a class act, and so is his Mom!


11 11 2012

Glad he attended Mike & Claires Wedding (Mike is just telling me about it). Sounds like a fantastic dog that touched the lives of many, and changed yours about completely 🙂 Sorry you lost him 😦


11 11 2012

“Just Smudge” was the first blog I’ve found when I was searching for Hearing Dogs, many years ago. I’ve learned so much from his blog and I’ve always admired your beautiful relationship with him. I’m so incredibly heartbroken with your news… He was a wonderful dog who had a wonderful life. Sleep tight, puppy. And thank you for the inspiration that lead to my own application for a Hearing Dog. Big hug, Tina.

12 11 2012
Peter Stelmacovich

Thank you so much for sharing your story about Smudge. I am not ashamed to admit that it brought a tear to my eye. Having lost my Hearing Ear Dog Amie in June of this year, I completely understand how close and special these wondeful dogs are.

13 11 2012
Jean & Barney

Oh Tina, I was so sad to hear about Smudge It was seeing you with Smudge that made me decide to apply for my own Hearing Dog and I know how Barney has changed my life and how I can’t imagine my life without him in it. I suppose you just have to remember all the fun times, and there are lots of those. He was always so happy and bouncy. Everyone took to him, how could you not. Hugs and licks. Jean & Barney xxx

15 11 2012
Sally Byrne

I only met Smudge once, three years ago on a packed commuter train from Richmond to Waterloo but it was love at first sight! He gave me lots of lovely friendly licks and I’ve enjoyed hearing about his doggie antics via your blog ever since. I’m so sorry for your loss Tina, I recently lost a beloved cat and constant companion, so I can imagine how you must be feeling. What wonderful memories you have. Keep them alive and Smudge will always be with you.

15 11 2012

Hi Tina,

I read your very moving tribute to Smudge. My memories of him:

Eating somebody’s lunch on the first days of the LTTC

Legs akimbo in front of Sue whilst she was trying to deliver a serious lecture

Stopping completely still in the middle of Twickenham Green whilst we were on the way to deliver a talk to Twickenham Hearing Support Group

Ditto at Waterloo!!!

Gazing adoringly at the chicken John had cooked in our kitchen

Spread out on my lap, fast asleep, at an ATLA meeting at RNIB

Lovely cuddles

Good mate to John when he saw him, I think it was Smudge playing with John to be honest as much as the other way around!

17 11 2012
Deborah Scott Anderson

I only knew Smudge for the past 3 years but in this brief encounter I fell in love with his charm and unique personality that always brought a smile to my face at UCL careers. Feel sure that his presence is why I loved working at the place – seeing that tail wagging down the corridor always made me smile. I found yr tribute so moving and it was great to discover many more wonderful stories about such a very special gentle dog who is sorely missed by us all.
We are lucky to have all these fab memories of such a very special hound. Will never forget you Smudgy and hope you are having fun wherever you are.
Debbie x

17 11 2012
Tom Hannon

My heart breaks for your loss of Smudge, Tina.

18 11 2012

Tina, I don’t know if my previous post went through or not. If this is a repeat, please delete… but I want you to know my heart is aching for you. My hearing dog Bosley has end-stage lymphoma and we are just keeping him comfy for now. They are incredible dogs/companions/family members, aren’t they?

18 11 2012

Hey Catherine, I’m so sorry to hear about Bosley. Share and cherish your memories, hopefully in time it will get better. ((hugs)) and big kiss to Bosley x

18 11 2012

i am so sorry to hear about your service dog my heart hurts when we loose a best friend i too have a hearing ear dog i know catherine and bosley very well my service dog sarge loves bosley very much as i do hugs from louanne and hearing ear dog sarge from ontario canada

18 11 2012
Jason J.

I also have a hearing/threpy dog myself. And I can truly say what a unbelievable friend and companion that you lost. I have word hard at training my dog myself. And it’s just a great personal accomplishment to be around him. And I know that someday his time will come and he will always remain a part of me as will your dog.

18 11 2012

Thoughts and love from Alberta, Canada

20 11 2012

I just learnt from reading this blog post regarding Smudge. So sorry to hear of your loss and what a lovely tribute post to him. I certainly enjoyed his blog of his day with you. Smudge will be missed.

5 12 2012

Dearest Smudge

We have come to love and cherish you in the CI department at the RNTNEH! You were as much of a patient here as Tina (infact, you had your own little water bowl here after a while!). Your friendly little face and bubbly personality will be thouroughly missed. Remember how you jumped on Tina’s lap when she was first switched on, only because you sensed your mummy was embarking on a whole new journey – the bond was incredible!
Rest in Peace Smudgie…
Lots of Love,
Mummy’s Audiologist

5 02 2013

Dear Tina, I thought I would just catch up with your blog, so imformative and helpul and fun in equal measures. much of the fun created by Dear Smudge. What a wondeful bond you had and a wealth of happy memories!!!
He was such fun when staying here, (in Hampshire). I recall Smudge realised I couldn’t get to the floor quickly, so he put the tennis ball on the sofa or my knee, reducing the bending and reaching for me!!! You had to still pick the ball off the floor of -course:-).

Smudge also coped like a “star” when he was by walking on his lead, alongside my powered wheelchair,which he had never done before, he never pulled on his lead or got tangled with up with me as this time!!!I

I shared my delight with you on our return and you realised, you had such a clever doggy pal:-), I’ve shed more than a few tears over reading of Smudge being no longer with you!!!! You were an amazing team, and so inspirational!!I do hope life is treating you well.
Would love to hear from you.
Much love Heather xxx

5 02 2013

Heather – lovely to hear from you – will email you shortly.

19 03 2013
Stephen Hopson

Awwwww….I want one of them! They’re so cute – so smart and so useful. Lots of love to these special working dogs. Thanks for sharing.

19 03 2013

Very, very special too. 🙂

28 07 2013
Ruth grainger

Tina, I’ve only just come across this – we met on one of the AGCAS courses at Warwick and I fell in love with Smudge (as did we all). I’m so sad to see that he is no longer with you. You have my deepest sympathy and, although this is not recent, I’m sure your loss was/is as profound as that of the closest relative. He brought joy and laughter to so many.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s