Today we’re pleased to share an interview with Christina Lee, owner of Deaf Dogs Rock as part of Deaf Dog Awareness Week. If you’ve considered adopting a deaf dog or have wanted to learn how you can help, we hope you will find the following information helpful. If you are the proud owner of a deaf dog or know someone who is, please leave us your comments below!
Can you share with our readers how your web site Deaf Dogs Rock was started?
It all started in November of 2010 when I received a call from a friend of mine who worked at the City of Salem Animal Shelter. She was calling me about a deaf puppy they had found dumped near the river. The puppy was malnourished, deaf, and had weak motor skills. They were very concerned if they adopted him out to just anyone he would probably get loose or possibly injured, so they asked my husband Chris and I if we would adopt the little deaf Boxer.
We already had three dogs and I wasn’t looking for another dog, so I told my friend at the shelter I would ask my husband thinking he would say no and I would be off the hook. The minute my husband Chris saw the puppy’s pitiful state he said YES! That night we researched everything we could find about raising a deaf dog and the next morning we came home with Nitro.
The first 24 hours I freaked out because the puppy was distant and I had no idea what I was doing. My husband suggested we sign up for 6 months of Positive Reinforcement Group Clicker Training classes at a local training facility called Field of Dreams Dog Training Center. Nitro soared and advanced in all his classes. He was a star pupil. Word got out about how much this little deaf puppy was learning that one of our local TV stations, WDBJ, did a big story on him knowing ASL and the story was picked up nationally.
Before we knew what was going on we were receiving emails from across the country asking for help on training and finding deaf dogs homes. In August of 2011 I decided I couldn’t stand the thought of deaf dogs like my sweet Nitro being put to sleep in shelters across this country simply because they were deaf. It was at this point Chris and I decided to launch DeafDogsRock.com. It took us 10 days of sitting next to each other on our computers learning to navigate the WordPress layout. Our focus was to provide valuable content up that would help other deaf dog owners and shelter volunteers. That’s how it all started.
What do you think is the most common misconception about a dog who is deaf?
Most people think they’re very hard to train which could not be further from the truth. Nitro went through Puppy Class and four levels of training in six weeks. He was so focused on me in class and he didn’t have the noise distractions the other dogs in the training class did, so he soared. He passed his AKC Good Canine Citizen Test at 10 months and he took his Delta Therapy Training Class at 12 months.
If someone reading this is considering adopting a deaf dog, what factors should they consider before doing so?
They need to have available time to spend with a deaf dog to help him or her build a solid foundation through daily and consistent positive reinforcement training. Owning a deaf dog is neither for the faint of heart nor for a lazy person. We try to provide as much guidance as we can on our Deaf Dogs Rock Training Blog and Video Training Blog. We share training tips from my experience with training Nitro, but also tips and videos from many of our DDR (Deaf Dogs Rock) community. We share a great ASL (American Sign Language) video with dog sign commands featured by Alisha McGraw.
As with any pet, there are pros and cons to owning a deaf dog. When a deaf dog runs off you can’t simply call him or her back, and even many hearing dogs don’t respond to recall either. It helps to have a fenced yard to keep a deaf dog safe, and at the very least someone would need to be willing to walk the dog often. In addition, sometimes deaf dogs tend to have separation anxiety. They are so focused on their “person” that even when I’m at home I have my two deaf dogs follow me from room to room 100% of the time, whereas my hearing dogs never follow me.
We call our deaf dogs our “Velcro dogs” because they stick to us like Velcro. If someone works 8-12 hours a day a deaf dog would probably not be a good choice.
Which resources do you recommend to those who’ve recently adopted a deaf dog?
DeafDogsRock is the first choice I would recommend because we have a section titled, “You Have Decided To Adopt a Deaf Dog, Now What?” to get new owners started. Also included in this section is additional information on resources and a great book to purchase titled Living With a Deaf Dog by Susan Cope Becker. On that page we also list two great ASL online resources to learn any ASL sign a person might need to communicate with their deaf dogs.
Since establishing Deaf Dogs Rock, has there been any story in particular which sticks out in your mind?
Gosh there are just so many! We have a Deaf Dogs Rock Happy Tail section on our website with over 60 heartwarming stories featured. I would have to say Indy’s story was one of our most dramatic stories. I had a DDR Facebook follower who followed us for the first year and she decided one day she really wanted to add a deaf Boxer to her family. She learned all the ASL commands so when her time to adopt a deaf puppy came, she would be ready. One morning I got a message from a friend that a little white Boxer puppy was returned to the Humane Society of Hamilton County in Indiana because he was deaf. Unfortunately, our follower Vickie lived in Ohio. I sent Vickie an early morning text with a photo of the puppy and told her to get up, get packed, and head to Indiana. It was her day off so she was not expecting this kind of excitement or long distance road trip on a moment’s notice.
Vickie got packed and called the shelter to see if they would hold the puppy because she was more than four hours away. The shelter told her they do not hold puppies, which I understand completely, but this was a very special circumstance. They would not budge on their rule and they also told her she must bring her two other Boxers to make sure the adoption would be a good fit.
During this time no one could get the animal shelter to change their mind so I mentioned it to our DDR Facebook followers and they proceeded to go over to the shelter’s Facebook page and ask if they would please hold the puppy for Vickie. After a few hours of everyone calling and filling up their Facebook page we received this photo from the shelter on our DDR Facebook page telling everyone to calm down and they would hold the puppy for Vickie.
In the meantime, a woman who lived in the area saw what was going on and she took off work early to go “sit on the puppy” so no one else could adopt Indy. Keep in mind, she didn’t know any of us, not even Vickie but she was one of our DDR Facebook followers. Everything turned out and Vickie adopted Indy. She didn’t get back to Ohio until 1 am so she didn’t update us until the next day. When she did, we soon discovered we had folks from all over the world following this wonderful heartwarming adventure. (Read the details on Indy’s story here.)
We hear your dog, Nitro, celebrated his 3rd birthday recently! How did you celebrate?
He got some “mommy time.” I left my other dogs at home because I usually take my two deaf boxers Bud and Nitro with me everywhere but today was Nitro’s Day. I loaded him up in our Deaf Dogs Rock car and we went out to purchase some new toys. He is a favorite among the employees at the pet store, so when the girls at the store found out it was his birthday they were all spoiling him. He was the center of attention.
Christina, thank you so much for taking the time to share Nitro’s story and provide insight to those considering adopting a deaf dog. What is the best way to keep up-to-date on Deaf Dogs Rock?
Our Deaf Dogs Rock Facebook page is frequently updated with new dog listings, deaf dogs in danger of being put down but I also like to balance our page with positive stories from our followers. We are also on Twitter and Instagram. Our Deaf Dogs Rock website is also updated with news stories and new deaf dogs available for adoption throughout the country, whether they are in local shelters, rescues, or from private individuals.