Monday, December 26, 2011

Deaf Dogs Make Amazing Pets!

You thought sign language was just for humans and monkeys? Think again! 

In my years of rescue, I have been honored to know (and come to love) so many different animals with disabilities! Like snowflake, a rabbit with one eye or Indigo, a beautiful Pit Bull mix that sports a custom made wheelchair to help with his disabled back end. Among these many special needs animals, I have met and come to adore several deaf pets.

When I first met Charlie and Lucy, I was attending the first annual Puppy Mill Awareness Day in Austin, TX (of which I am now a committee member and official designer for this annual event). They were both sporting bandannas which let everyone around them know that they are both deaf and blind! I spoke with their mom at the event and over the last 2 years I have gotten to know this little family (even painting several pictures of these two beautiful pooches!) and I have to say that I fall more in love with them each time I see their cute little faces! (Even my husband now asks if they are coming to events so he can love all over them!)

Charlie came into his parents lives after a post on Facebook showed this little family of deaf and blind family desperately looking for a home. When Carol and John (Charlie & Lucy's parents) went to visit the little family, they fully intended to take home the shyest of the litter, which happened to be Charlie. Charlie's mother and 2 other pups from this little family were taken to Training by Tara's (a fabulous trainer in the Austin area) to be cared for. Charlie was right at home with Carol and John. 

© 'Charlie and Lucy'  |  16in x 20in painting by The Pet Studio
Lucy was rescued a short time later after her photo also showed up on Facebook. She was rescued from the same area as Charlie's little family, and is assumed to be a sibling from another litter to Charlie. As soon as it was noted that she may have a relationship to Charlie, Carol was on her way to pick up Lucy and bring her home to safety.

As a family with experience working with special needs pets, Carol and John adjusted quickly to these two pups and immediately began to work with them, creating a special training program specific to their needs. In addition to their human training, Charlie and Lucy are also teaching each other! When Lucy arrived, Charlie taught her how to play with toys, and that treats are delicious! He also stayed right by her side, making her feel at home and safe in their little pack. 

© "The Faces of Charlie"  |  18in x 24in by The Pet Studio
Charlie and Lucy are among a small group of extremely lucky animals. Unfortunately, animals with disabilities are often immediately killed in Animal Shelters across the country simply because they are looked upon as 'unadoptable'. 

Then there are groups like TN Safety Spotters, a non-profit charitable organization that specializes in deaf dog therapy! TN Safety Spotters focuses solely on Rescued Deaf Dalmatians, training them to work with children as reading education and therapy assistance dogs. This organization teaches dogs like Dora (who sadly passed away last year) sign language and travels around the country sharing their knowledge of deaf dogs and the amazing things that they can do! 

Born deaf, Dora was rescued as a tiny puppy and did not know any hand signals at all. When she passed away, at only 2 years old, she knew around 45 hand signals, ranging from a simple signal for 'Pay Attention" to more complicated signals like "Roll" and "Crawl Away". These signals not only helped Dora to focus on the world around her, but it helped in her educational therapy, teaching children fire safety and dog bite prevention!! Dora also spent time working with special needs children, showing them that she was just as capable of finding her own 'normal' as they are!

© 'Dora'  |  8in x 10in painting by The Pet Studio
Charlie, Lucy and Dora are all perfect exampled of how deaf dogs are just like dogs that have perfect hearing! Each dog is an individual, just like each person is an individual! We don't kill humans simply because we feel that they aren't worth saving because of their special needs, nor do we kill them simply because we feel there are too many humans running around.... Each animal deserves a chance to be loved by that perfect family! Our shelter system needs to embrace changes that give each animals that chance! By implementing programs proven successful by The No Kill Equation, each animals entering our country's shelter system would be given that opportunity!

Stephanie Conrad
The Pet Studio | Owner | Artist

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