Sunday, February 26, 2012

Having a deaf/blind dog is not for everyone

Recently, I came across an article online where a family in the UK put out an alert that their deaf/blind dog had gone missing. Apparently, the owner slept until noon and when she awakened, she discovered the dog was gone. She also discovered that someone had left a gate open, which is how her dog got out. Her dog is 16 years old and she went on about how much they all love this dog. I felt bad for their situation, but at the same time, I was gritting my teeth.

If her dog is deaf and blind – as in, CAN’T HEAR and CAN’T SEE – why didn’t she take better measures to ensure her dog would be safe? I know, we’re all human and we all make mistakes sometimes. But making sure a gate was closed should have been a priority. She should have made sure it would not be easy for the dog to wander off by reminding EVERYONE in the household to keep the gate closed because the dog might get out. The dog can’t even see where he is going!

Not too long after that, I was dismayed by another article I read. This time, the owner KNEW his deaf/blind dog was roaming off, but he didn’t do anything about it! Animal control constantly returned the dog to the owner telling him he needed to stop allowing the dog to wander off. But he never did. Then one day, the dog, a German Shepherd, got stuck in a swamp. His howling after 11 p.m. woke somebody who lived nearby, and this person called animal control. They all took action to get the dog out of the swamp and help him to get warm. Their guess was that the dog had been in the swamp for at least a half hour and he was frozen to the bone. (The dog also had arthritis.) When they pulled him from the swamp, the dog turned rigid and passed out. They were able to warm him up and revive him, but unfortunately, the vet could not save him.

The dog had to be put down. And the owner was arrested for neglect.

The fact that I read two articles of these sad situations for deaf/blind dogs in the span of one week just really affected me. Of course I was angry that these owners did not do what they were supposed to do to protect their dogs, but it also reminded me of an interview I did for SIGNews.

This interview was with Christina Lee, founder of Deaf Dogs Rock. We had quite a lengthy interview and reading those articles reminded me of something she said in the interview. In my interview, when I asked, "Does it take a special someone to be a companion to a deaf dog?" part of her answer included this: "I don’t think you have to be a special person to adopt a deaf dog but I do think a deaf dog is not for a lazy person." The same could be said of anyone who is responsible for a dog that is deaf and blind.

My own dog has vision problems, so I know I can’t be one of those dog owners who lets her dog outside then forgets about him. I have a large backyard and my dog has gotten lost in it a couple of times. He likes to wander and explore, and I’ve had to go out there and gently lead him back to the door. Or sometimes, I would pick him up and carry him back inside if he was having a hard time navigating his way back to the door. I know I have to keep an eye on him just as I have to keep an eye on my preschooler. This is especially true since I am deaf; I can’t hear my dog howling for help if he gets stuck somewhere. (Also, I think my dog is grateful we have wooden floors, because he can feel the footsteps when someone is nearby, just as I can.)

The point is that anyone, ANYONE, who has a dog that is deaf and blind MUST take steps to ensure their dog’s safety. Keep a gate closed, watch your dog, don’t allow your dog to roam the countryside and never, ever hit or scream at your deaf/blind dog for doing something “naughty” that you could have prevented. The dog is only being a dog.

I asked Christina for a comment about this topic. This is what she had to say: “The main thing I would say is for folks who have deaf and blind dogs to put them in the same category (as far as safety measures go to be put in place) as they would if they had a 12 to 14 month old baby. When a dog can't see or hear it should be an inside dog with the exception of going potty outside and supervised play in a fenced area and never ever take them to a dog park.”

She has invited readers to check out her tips for working with a deaf dog – but some of these tips (such as taking a class and watching for signs of fear or aggression with other dogs) can work for a deaf/blind dog. You can read her tips here.

Finally, please don’t neglect your deaf/blind dog. I still remember another article I read of a deaf/blind dog that was left chained up outside for seven years, with no human interaction or a chance to be in a warm home during the harsh winters. Thankfully, this dog was finally rescued, but my heart aches thinking of what that dog went through for seven years on a chain outside. So please do not neglect your deaf/blind dog! Having a deaf/blind dog is a huge responsibility. If you cannot be responsible or do what is required to take care of your deaf/blind dog, then please find a good home for it where the dog will receive the care, training, guidance and love he/she so desperately needs.


Christina said...

Great advice Dawn. Thanks for advocating for deaf and blind dogs everywhere. According to my deaf dog Nitro and I, you totally ROCK!

Christina Lee - Deaf Dogs Rock

Dawn Colclasure said...

Thank you, Christina. :) I am so glad to know that you and Nitro are working so hard to help deaf dogs.