MADDY is an alarm clock, a warning system and a messenger for her young owner, Poppy Nicholson.

In short, the three-year-old cocker poodle has helped transform 11-year-old's life during the two years since she teamed up with Poppy, who is moderately to severely hard of hearing.

Poppy, of Hampton Close, Fenstanton, was given Maddy by Hearing Dogs for Deaf People as part of a trial to determine if the specially trained dogs can have a positive effect in the life of children.

After six months, the trial - involving just 12 children - was shown to be a great success.

Poppy, who was ashamed of her hearing aids and felt isolated, has a new best friend, additional security and confidence.

"I am able to sleep better now as I know I am safe, as before I would keep waking up and checking that everything was safe," Poppy told The Hunts Post. "It's also much easier to fall asleep as I know Maddy is there. Other people will have background noise, like hearing their mum and dad talking and moving, to reassure them when going to sleep.

"Maddy has given me a lot of confidence. Before her I would hide my hearing aids as people would ask me what are they and it would make me feel like I wasn't normal. People would stare at me in the streets as well.

"But now, people see Maddy in her hearing dog coat and they know straight away. She goes up to people and introduces us, so they know they can talk to me."

To celebrate Hearing Dog's 30th birthday, the charity has launched the 'My Best Friend Appeal' to train more hearing dogs to give to children.

The dogs have transformed the lives of the children who have so been lucky enough to have them.

Instead of being woken by an alarm clock, Maddy paws at Poppy and pulls her covers down. When Maddy is alerted to dangers or the doorbell, the dog gets Poppy's attention and then sits in different ways to communicate the sounds.

Maddy also had to be chosen so as not to cause problems in the Nicholson household as Poppy's father, Keith, is allergic to dogs, while her mother Olivia and brother Henry both had to get over their fears of dogs.

But instead of driving the family apart, Maddy has brought the family together.

Poppy added: "Maddy is my best friend and when I think about what she has done for me, I can't think of life without her."

Mrs Nicholson, 40, said: "We feel so privileged to be part of the trial and I hope that more children will be given hearing dogs because they have helped in all aspects of Poppy's life."

INFORMATION: Jo Totman, a friend of the Nicholson family for 30 years, is running the London Marathon on April 22 for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/jo-totman