This is a story about my deaf dalmatian Charlie and how he came to be such a big part of my life. From what I gathered from his shelter paperwork I think he was a puppy mill dog since he was originally sold to a pet store. There is a long history of dalmatian breeders culling (putting them to sleep) deaf puppies because they think that’s the “humane ” option for them. They buy into the myths they have heard for generations about deaf dalmatians being more aggressive which in the last few years have been debunked by research.
In the pet store where Charlie was offered for sale he had not been returned just once or twice but the pet store had sold him three times! Even with the third family not one person realized this cute dalmatian puppy was deaf. Ultimately the records show he was sold to a total of four families.
The last owner who purchased Charlie decided to dump the poor pup at the shelter. He had originally asked the shelter staff to euthanize Charlie. The NYC ACC is a high kill shelter and they decided because Charlie was still a puppy to put him up for adoption. After a while Charlie still ended up on a “kill list” because of the euthanasia recommendation from the last owner became known.
If Charlie hadn’t made it on the kill, my best friend would never have seen him or found him. When she saw his post on FB she sent me the photo. When I fist saw this crazy dalmatian puppy, he was a nut case jumping all over me and biting my arms (he had no puppy bite inhibition training whatsoever). I think he was between six and ten months old when I got him.
I knew the dalmatian breed was known for a high incidence of deafness (as high as 25-30%) so I did some testing on my own and confirmed he was indeed deaf.
I waved my hands and he responded so we started communicating through training with sign commands. Originally I took him home to foster him and help him with his training. I figured I would help the Dalmatian Rescue by training him and help to find him a good home.
After I got Charlie home, I could tell immediately from Charlie’s body language he was abused and probably was never walked or taken outside to go to potty. For the first month he lived with me he only went potty inside (everywhere). He was a little biter and really to an uneducated person he appeared to be a terrible puppy. Since I like a challenges when it comes to training dogs I could recognize his sweet soul under all that crazy. I decided to start working with him every day.
It took months of working with him every single day for me to rehabilitate Charlie. I decided after working with him for two weeks I was going to be a failed foster and keep him. He was already dependent on me and he had four humans before me fail him and I was not going to be his fifth.
After 6 months of daily consistent positive reinforcement training and socialization, Charlie was doing so well he passed his Therapy Dog exam! We now go to a local hospital to visit the sick and terminally ill patients and their families to comfort them.
I have a minor Vagus nerve disorder, and I can go unconscious when my blood pressure drops too low. It started happening about a year into rescuing Charlie. When Charlie noticed me having an episode he would rush and sit on me to keep me calm so I wouldn’t pass out. As a deaf dog I believe he is so tuned into my body chemistry he can detect a Vegus nerve episode to make a perfect Service Dog for me. Charlie naturally knows what to do and I feel safer and less anxious having him by my side.
After a while people on the streets of New York started noticing how beautiful and well behaved he is so they asked if they could photograph him. No one knew or cared if he was deaf. He does get photographed for magazines and he does gigs during fashion week. He loves posing for the camera and is comfortable off leash (even if it’s in Time Square). – by Colleen Wilson