A CHALFONT St Peter schoolboy has seen his life change for the better after he had trouble sleeping – all thanks to his hearing dog.

Zach Allen, 11, was diagnosed deaf at three-and-a-half years old and struggled with night terrors leaving him exhausted. 

After hosting a cake sale for the National Deaf Children’s Society, Zach’s mother Kirsty, 41, was approached by a representative of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. 

The family had to wait until Zach was seven to apply but they were finally matched with Echo, who turns five on February 8, a yellow Labrador, ten days before Zach’s eighth birthday. 

Kirsty admits that within days of training with Echo, Zach felt safe and he could sleep in his room play by himself.

“Zach was like many deaf children, he had major problems sleeping at night, because once you take out hearing aids you can’t hear anything and then if you close your eyes you can’t see anything,” she said.

“It’s just an additional layer of vulnerability and he would keep his eyes open and say I can’t go to sleep because I wouldn’t hear a burglar come in my room and I wouldn’t hear the fire alarm go off and I wouldn’t see it flash and I wouldn’t hear the monsters come in.

“Eventually we ended up with a light on, music on, hearing aids in and an adult in the room and it would still take anything up to two hours to get him to go to sleep.

“Another big problem for deaf children is that they live in a noisy world and so they have what is called auditory fatigue which means they get more exhausted by the tasks that hearing children are doing without really thinking about it.

“He couldn’t ever do anything outside of school, he couldn’t go to any clubs or anything because he just didn’t have the energy to do it.

“Within two days, Zach said I don’t need you in my room because I’ve got Echo in my room and he will keep me safe.

“He was instantly getting two hours more sleep a night which made such a huge difference to his energy levels and his ability to be able to cope in a classroom and be involved in regular normal life, so he was able to start swimming lessons.”

Now the pair have been nominated for the hero assistance dog category of The Kennel Club’s Friends for Life award at Crufts, celebrating all assistance dogs, from guide and hearing to medical detection and autism assistance dogs. They missed out on the final short-list though.

The Kennel Club wants to celebrate and share the amazing stories of how dogs give back to us every day of our lives. There will be one winner per category, decided through a public vote, and the overall winner will be announced in the NEC arena at Crufts 2019. 

The winner will also be awarded £5,000 and the runners up will each receive – for their nominated canine charity – £1,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust – helping to make a difference for dogs.

When completing the handover from the trainer to Zach, the family also decided to take Echo into school to meet his year group and have an assembly with the trainer explaining the role of hearing dogs. 

However, Zach decided to give the assembly and explain who Echo was himself – much to surprise of his teachers. 

“I felt nervous about the assembly because I have never been in front on my year but I was excited at the same time that everyone gets to see Echo, so I was nervited,” said Zach, who had cochlear implant surgery and solely relied on Echo before the devices worked properly.

“Echo changed my life, he is my best friend because I own him and he owns me.

“He stayed by my side and he always watched out for me. He’s just the perfect dog and I like him because sometimes he likes trains.”