A dog who couldn't hear has learned some sign language, thanks to inmates at a U.S. prison and children at a school for the deaf.
Inmates at a Missouri prison trained the deaf dachshund named Sparky in sign language and then asked the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton to take him in.
Today, Sparky is right at home with the school's youngsters, who have taught him additional sign language. And a second deaf dog, a Boston terrier named Petie, may be on his way to the school soon.
Superintendent Barbara Garrison approved bringing Sparky to the school.
"She really thought it would be a great learning experience for the kids," Garrison's secretary Barbara McGrath said in an interview.
Sparky came from the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Mo., which has also offered Petie. Garrison is interested in taking in Petie but only if she knows it can eventually be placed in a permanent home after some sign language training, McGrath said.
Sparky responds to hand signals to sit, heel, lie down and stop and is working on additional signs that mean "food" or "outside."
Sparky and Petie come from the Puppies for Parole program of the Missouri Department of Corrections in which inmates train animals with behavioral or other issues that make them difficult to adopt.
The program saves dogs that might otherwise be euthanized and it gives inmates a constructive activity, said Tina Holland, activities coordinator at the Licking prison.
"It's been wonderful — it's gone far beyond what we thought it would be," Holland said. "Their goal is just to get these dogs a home."