There are all sorts of challenges that shelter animals face when they are vying for the attention of potential adopters. They can’t all be cute puppies or kittens. They may not be wiggly and happy because of the anxiety of being kenneled or caged. They may be diamonds in the rough who need some time to gain some weight or get their fur to shine. Many things can stand in their way.
Such was the case for a gangly American Bulldog pup who was brought into the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter as a stray back in March of 2017. He was only 4 or 5 months old, which was a huge advantage, but he was deaf and had not been trained in any way. These are HUGE red flags for adopters, making his future very uncertain. Even at his age, rescues for deaf dogs are very difficult to get into because of volume and the time needed to train these special-needs dogs.
For this particular puppy though, his handicap is what attracted the man who would turn his world around. Chris Hannah, a music teacher from Mennies Elementary School in Vineland, would just be starting his search for a new companion to bring a little joy into his life when, at the same time, “Harry Potter” found himself in the clutches of an animal control officer and wound up at the shelter. Chris pulled up our website, clicked on the adoptable dogs section and found the perfect match on his very first search! It so happens that Chris is very involved in the life of his nephew (the two-legged kind), who also is deaf, and knew the minute he saw the puppy online that fate was calling.
Fast forward one year, the renamed “Cole” has become a mascot of sorts, attending many school events and now becoming involved in the Read Across America program at Mennies. The kids in second through fifth grades have come up with their own story, “Captain Cochlear & Maestro Mutt,” about Chris’s nephew and this very lucky dog. It’s a big week as the pup is also taking his Canine Good Citizen test, which is the first step in his quest to become a therapy dog for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
When training Cole, Chris wanted to use American Sign Language so that users of ASL would be able interact with the dog. Some slight alterations were made to make the signals easily readable for the dog. A trainer helped Chris with a remote collar that is used to get Cole to focus on his hands. Apparently Cole is a quick and eager learner, something I’m sure Chris wishes from all his students.
This story is a great reminder that all things are possible. Although we viewed Cole’s deafness as a detriment to finding a home, it turned out to be his lucky charm
On top of all his accomplishments, we have just learned that Cole will be a contestant in our 10th annual Dog Of The Year contest, which kicks off in April. Over the past nine years, this contest has raised more than $130,000 for our shelter animals. It’s a great way for our former shelter dogs and their adopters to support the homeless pets who are in the shelter waiting to find their special person or family.
South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter: A deaf puppy’s inspiring story
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