A Deaf Dog's Story
It was love at first sight when I first spotted my new "mom," Connie Bombaci. When Connie Bombaci, an educator, first came to meet me, our hearts immediately met. You see, I'm a Dalmatian pup with special needs. From birth, I was what 12% of all Dalmatians congenitally are at birth: completely deaf; and nearly twice that number are deaf in one ear.
"Mama" was seeking a companion for India, a playful Black Labrador pup, and called the Connecticut Humane Society. When she introduced me, Hogan, to her friends, she was cautioned that I'd be "too much of a burden." Some even recommended that I be destroyed. But that didn't stop her! Viewing this challenge with the same devotion and energy she brought to her profession as an AV/TV Director and then the Associate Principal at the local high school, she jumped in with both feet. Mama's eyes lit up and she instantly became animated whenever she described with incredible depth and warmth her desire to communicate with me; "Deaf dogs are no different in any way from other pets - they love to play, they want to be loved, the like to be with people, and they love to be touched. We just need to communicate with them in a way they can understand."
Well, not only did she save me and promise me a forever home (Hogan means 'shelter' in Native American), but she brings the greatest gift to pet owners with deaf dogs around the world. Using over 60 signs from American Sign Language, together we proved that communication with deaf dogs produces fun-loving, happy pups. And my little sister, Georgia who was also deaf, understood as well! (She was supposed to be a foster pup, but Mama couldn't bring herself to give her up.) Both of us comprehended signed words and short sentences the same way that India, our hearing sister, understood the spoken word. In fact, Mama even said that, in some ways, deaf dogs can be easier to train than hearing dogs. And our successes helps erase the stigma too often associated with dogs born deaf. There's no need to destroy us. People don't hesitate to adapt to the special needs of people . . . and we're no different. We can and do learn and we make wonderful members of the family.
Mama's highly energetic style and passion for working with me was contagious. When Jack Hanna came to visit me to produce an episode for his Animal Adventures nationally broadcast television program, he was nothing short of amazed. Upon learning in less than a minute how to tell me to 'sit,' his response was an unbridled, "Oh, wow - Cool!"
My success has been featured in over 95 newspapers across Connecticut, local television networks, Dateline, Oprah Winfrey Show, Amazing Tails, just to mention some. Mama and I dedicated our hard work to help others and even used the Internet. One woman, Jane, wrote, "I wouldn't have kept Spottie who has turned out to be a bundle of love in my life;" and Dave added, "With your help, I found that a hard-of-hearing animal is no more trouble than one with normal hearing."
My mission . . . I want the story of my life to get out to everyone that deaf dogs are smart, loving, and can be wonderful family members with the proper care, attention, and training.
"(There are) none so deaf than those who refuse to listen."
(adapted) Matthew Henry, Commentaries (1708-1710)
"Who have eyes but do not see, who have ear but do not hear"
Also visit www.deafdogs.com for helpful information in working with our special, deaf pups.
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All photography and illustrations provided by Connie Bombaci