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Paddles and paws: Claire Cook’s support for hearing dogs

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Claire Cook is a Business Development Manager in our Research and Innovation Services Department with an unusual hobby.

Claire has a wide-reaching role, supporting colleagues in social sciences and arts and humanities with generating income from their research and developing non-credit bearing continuing professional development provisions across the University.

For this edition of Dialogue, we spoke to Claire about her rewarding hobby which involves our canine friends.

Tell us about your hobby…

My unusual hobby involves supporting the local Hearing Dogs for Deaf people in the North East region, helping to familiarise them on and around the water.

I assist the dogs in keeping calm and getting used to the movements of the water while wearing a buoyancy aid. I paddle them around the lake, either in a kayak or on a paddleboard, alongside their trainers, and I help the trainers become confident in managing the dogs solo by providing support in the water.

How did you get into supporting the local Hearing Dog group?

My friend Jeanette has been training a hearing dog puppy named Waffle for the past 18 months. She wanted to ensure Waffle developed a wide range of skills to help her future owner live a full life. Jeanette asked me to support her in getting Waffle used to the water and I’ve since helped many other trainers.

My local water activity centre, H2O Riders at Witton Castle, has been a strong supporter of this group, providing the necessary equipment to aid both the dogs and their trainers. The team is amazing, and it's a lovely supportive group for people and dogs.

Why is this so important to you?

I love being outdoors, especially on the water. It plays a significant role in my downtime and supports my wellbeing. I want to help others access and enjoy this experience, which I often take for granted.

Deaf people, and those who are hard-of-hearing can feel isolated due to communication barriers, missing out on social interactions and feeling disconnected from friends, family, and the world around them. They strive for independence and the ability to enjoy life fully. By helping them confidently engage in water activities with their dogs, I hope to make a small but meaningful difference in their lives.

If you’d like to share your interesting or unusual hobby, get in touch with us at



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