Deaf Scots schoolboy was too scared to sleep until hearing dog changed his life

A deaf schoolboy who was too anxious to sleep without his parents beside him now feels safe at night, thanks to a specially-trained furry friend.

Fourteen-year-old Callum Maclachlan from Cove, Aberdeen, was the first child in Scotland to be partnered with a hearing dog. His hearing dog Piper came to live with him in 2021. Before then, he struggled to get to sleep every night.

His mum Vicky said "When Callum took his cochlear implants off, his world was completely silent. He couldn’t hear us moving around the house and so felt really alone in the dark. My husband and I had to take it in turns each night to lie next to him until he fell asleep.

"From the day Piper arrived, we’ve never had to do this. She sleeps with him in his room and she helps him to feel safe. He always used to be anxious about being up in his bedroom on his own. Piper gives him that feeling of security. Now, he plays online with his friends up in his bedroom and Piper sits with him.

"He’s only allowed a certain amount of online play time though, so we set a timer and when that goes off, Piper nudges him and he knows that time’s up!"

Callum is one of around 76 people in Scotland who have a hearing dog, Aberdeen Live reports. The family is sharing Callum's story to support the Great British Dog Walk, a gathering at the Balmoral estate in aid of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People.

The event will see hundreds of walkers and dogs of all shapes and sizes descend on the Royal Deeside estate on June 2, after King Charles gave his permission for the event.

It costs around £40,000 to fully train and support a hearing dog for the duration of its life, so every walker will be helping to transform the life of a deaf person.

Gill Yeates, Head of Community Fundraising for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, said: "This is a fabulous opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful parts of the stunning Balmoral Estate - one of Their Majesties’ favourite residences - along with other dog lovers and their four-legged friends."

Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since 1852. Described by Queen Victoria as ‘my dear paradise in the Highlands’, the Balmoral Estate covers some 50,000 acres of beautiful landscape in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park and is home to rare species including capercaillie, golden eagles and red squirrels.

On the day there will be 5km and 3km routes, making it ideal for dog owners, families, single walkers, organised walking groups and those who want to get some exercise while helping a good cause. There will also be fun additional activities to do along the routes, and games to enjoy before and after the walk.

Carina Hummel, Managing Director at Specsavers Audiology, which sponsors the Great British Dog Walk, said: "This event is an excellent way for people to have fun, get some exercise, meet like-minded people and perhaps most importantly, meet lots of cute dogs while supporting a good cause.

"If every person who took part in the Great British Dog Walk raised just £10 by getting themselves or their dog sponsored, the charity could train another dog like Piper to alert deaf people to important and life-saving sounds that they would otherwise miss and help them to leave loneliness behind.

"We’re so proud of our involvement in the Great British Dog Walk and the fact that it helps to transform the lives of deaf adults and children like Callum. We’re very much looking forward to the walks and hope lots of people in each area will come along and show their support."

Tickets to the walk are £12 in advance or £15 on the day, and a free limited-edition Great British Dog Walk dog bandana will be given away with each adult ticket. While sponsorship would be much appreciated to help Hearing Dogs train more life-changing dogs, it is not essential.

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