• Slideshow Photos

    Sensing love: Meet deaf dogs who got new leashes on life

    Thousands of otherwise healthy dogs get put down each year simply because they cannot hear. These 16 deaf pups got rescued by loving humans.

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    Beignet -

    It’s National Deaf Dog Awareness Week — a time when dog lovers across the United States work to clear up myths and misconceptions about deaf dogs. From Sept. 22 to 28, animal advocates are drawing attention to the thousands of otherwise healthy dogs that get put down each year simply because they cannot hear. One such dog lover is photographer and author Melissa McDaniel, who is sharing photos from her “Deaf Dogs” book and other books here.

    Beignet, the French bulldog pictured here, is an avowed social butterfly. Her inability to hear hasn’t stopped her from becoming a highly effective certified therapy dog in Colorado.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Faith -

    “Many people put deaf dogs down because they think they’re not trainable, or they’re going be aggressive,” McDaniel said. “It's just not true.” In fact, deaf dogs, like most dogs, can respond very well to hand signals.

    Faith, the Great Dane pictured here, spent the first part of her life being used for breeding in a Pennsylvania backyard. The breeder decided to get rid of her because “she didn’t listen and kept running off” — and the couple who took her home soon realized she was deaf. They also realized that, despite her inability to hear, Faith had a knack for tracking and agility. They took the time to train her and were astonished by how much she loved to perform. Faith went on to earn several agility titles.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Sadie -

    McDaniel first became interested in understanding deaf dogs after she adopted Sadie, the border collie-Labrador retriever mix pictured here. Sadie and all of her littermates inherited deafness from their mother. “Sadie made me ask: What does it mean to have a deaf dog? What does that entail?” said McDaniel, who lives in Philadelphia. “Now I know that it’s like having a normal dog — you just have to use hand signals, and you have to have a fenced-in yard.”

    McDaniel said Sadie loves to chase butterflies and bugs and, at age 10, she’s still capable of mastering new commands. (She just learned the “back up” command a month ago.) “My dog is so happy,” McDaniel said. “She has no idea she’s deaf.”
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Bindi -

    Deafness in dogs can be congenital, or it can be acquired through trauma, ear infections, drug reactions or old age. Deafness that is congenital, or inherited from birth, is typically pigment-related and stems from a defective gene. It’s most common in white animals.

    McDaniel photographed Bindi, the Australian kelpie pictured here, after the dog got rescued from a California shelter where she was due to be euthanized because of her deafness. Bindi now lives in Nevada and “loves kids so much she seeks them out with her tail wagging,” McDaniel writes in “Deaf Dogs.”
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Henry -

    Henry, a miniature long-haired dachshund who is living a happy life in Illinois, was born partially deaf. He also was born “with just one eye, which is also underdeveloped, so he is partially blind in that eye,” McDaniel explained. This happened to Henry because his breeder attempted to breed dapple, or “merle,” dachshunds together to get white dachshunds.

    “Merle dogs should never be bred together because the litters produce dogs that are known as ‘double merles,’” McDaniel said. “Double merles are often deaf and have vision problems.”
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Rascal -

    Rascal, a deaf “double-merle” border collie, got rescued a day before he was due to be put down at a shelter in North Carolina. Even though he can’t hear, is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other eye, he is friendly and vivacious. Rascal loves to chase shadows in his New York home.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Dottie -

    McDaniel said deaf dog ownership is “not for the lazy.” “You’re constantly walking across the room to get their attention,” she said. “Usually you have to go and get them.” One of the first and most important commands to teach a deaf dog is “look at me”: “You draw a treat up to your eyes, and as soon as they lock their gaze with yours, you give them a treat,” McDaniel said. “This trains them to continually check in with you.”

    Dottie, the American pit bull terrier-American Staffordshire terrier mix pictured here, is a playful deaf dog who lives in Michigan and is known for her loud snores.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Neiko -

    People who work with and love deaf dogs often call them “deafies” as a term of endearment. Neiko, the deaf Australian shepherd-border collie mix pictured here, lives in Massachusetts and has another nickname as well: “The Princess,” because she doesn’t like to get her paws wet.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Estimates vary, but veterinary sources indicate that 20 to 30 percent of all dalmatian puppies are born deaf in one or both ears. The woman who adopted this deaf dalmatian — named “Pirate Grayson” for the patch over his eye and the town in Georgia where he once lived — insists that Pirate is “no different than any other dog.” “He is the best dog I have ever had,” she told McDaniel.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Moonbeam -

    McDaniel offered this important insight about deaf-dog ownership: It’s can be dangerous to let a deaf dog off leash in an uncontained area. “You have no way of calling your dog back,” she said.

    Moonbeam, the deaf dalmatian mix pictured here, is expertly trained. She lives in Maryland with a human owner who is deaf and another deaf dalmatian mix named Roxy. The owner uses American Sign Language to communicate with both of his dogs.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Rocky -

    Photographing deaf dogs can be quite challenging — especially if the pups aren’t motivated by treats — because “they can just wander off,” McDaniel said. “I’ll often hold the treat and hold the camera at the same time, hoping they’ll look at the treat and therefore at the lens,” the photographer said. “I try to direct their gaze by moving the treat around.”

    Rocky, the deaf female boxer pictured here, lives in Chicago and wears a pink coat and little boots to stay warm in the winter months.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Tilly -

    Tilly, a border collie who is deaf, lovable and ball-obsessed, lives in Massachusetts with a couple who regularly marvel at how smart she is. The agile dog can open most crate doors, and she’s been known to spring her canine brothers and sisters from their crates as well.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Angel -

    Angel, a deaf phalene (a papillon with drop ears), was surrendered by a family who thought they couldn’t handle a special-needs dog. In addition to being deaf, Angel has epilepsy — but the couple who adopted her can anticipate her seizures because of the way she sits right near them wanting to be held. “She is a true angel and a blessing,” one of her owners told McDaniel. “We would adopt another deafie in a heartbeat!”
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Scout -

    Scout, a terrier mix, began her life in a puppy mill. In her later years, she had trouble getting adopted because she was deaf. She finally got placed in a loving home in Canada, where she astonishes many with her memory skills and her obedience. Scout knows more than 50 hand signals, and she will remain in the “stay” command even when she’s separated from her owner by a great distance.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Thumper and Rimel -

    Thumper, left, could hear when she was born, but she became deaf after being treated with antibiotics at 5 months of age. She lives in Austin, Texas, with Rimel, right, who likely became deaf as a result of an upper respiratory infection at a young age. Thumper and Rimel’s human owners are deaf, and both dogs know numerous American Sign Language commands. “They are so well-behaved — probably two of the most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met,” McDaniel said.
    Melissa McDaniel
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    Thor -

    A deaf Chihuahua in Florida, Thor knows so many visual commands and is so obedient that his human family members call him a “star pupil.” The well-adjusted little dog loves playing with children and making new friends.

    In addition to her “Deaf Dogs” photography book, Melissa McDaniel also has self-published photo books titled “Rescued in America” and “Pit Bulls and Pit Bull Type Dogs.” Her next book, “Puppy Mill Survivors,” is due out in November 2013. To learn more about McDaniel’s books, click here. To learn more about deaf dogs, visit the website of the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund.
    Melissa McDaniel