One of the main reasons I even began thinking of starting a blog was our dog Luna, the American Pitbull Terrier my boyfriend, K, and I got back in November 2013.
This being my first dog (any experience with the species being limited to the extend family members who had them growing up), I immediately went into Research-Mode. Those who know me can tell you this usually results in tons of information as well as multi-tab spreadsheets organizing said information into various charts/tables (with notes!) that are emailed to interested parties. I looked up anything and everything I could think of about how to raise a puppy responsibly: what to feed them, how to properly socialize them, what toys were they best, grooming, play groups, etc.
So, having done my homework, I set about making the requisite appointments with my veterinarian to have Luna checked out and begin with her vaccinations. Once at the veterinarian’s office we were informed that the puppy we were told was 8 weeks old was really probably only 5-6 weeks old when we got her and that she had a heart murmur. Wonderful. That last bit had me panicked and scurrying to back my computer for even more research.
The heart murmur eventually went away, but another concern soon surfaced. The fact that she is all white and has heterochromia (2 different colored eyes) raised a flag for me from the beginning since I know that all white dogs with blue eyes can have some issues (I did study biology at university, after all), but she seemed completely normal. As the weeks passed, however, we began to suspect that Luna may have limited hearing ability. She slept so soundly we sometimes wondered if she was still breathing and nothing ever woke her up except touching her when she was in her crate. She never noticed kids playing outside or other dogs barking unless they were in her line of site and she couldn’t track objects throw across the room unless she saw you throw them. By her 3rd or 4th veterinary appointment our doctor had determined that most likely Luna is almost completely deaf. The doctor explained that due to a lack of pigmentation that produced her white coat color, Luna had never developed the cells in her ears that would allow her to hear properly.
Luckily, K’s family had dalmatians growing up, one of whom was deaf, so he has some experience living with a deaf dog; I, on the other hand, was completely out of my element. I barely had any experience with dogs and now I had to train and socialize a deaf one?? You’re joking right? Everyone assured me it wasn’t that different from raising a hearing dog and they are, at least partially, right.
As I dove into yet another round of internet research I discovered a somewhat surprising lack of resources regarding what to do with a deaf dog. I could find websites, blogs, message boards, and forums for days on training methods for hearing dogs, but only a few good ones for deaf dogs. Eventually, I found a few websites and groups that I felt were able to provide the information I was looking for and we began training Luna using hand signals.
The hand signal training is proving to be somewhat easier that I expected (although I really have no basis for comparison) and, while we’ve still got a long way to go, I feel like we’re off to a pretty good start all things considered. Luna now knows ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, and ‘Look at me’ which she dutifully performs at breakfast, dinner, and street crossings…provided there is promise of a yummy treat somewhere along the way.