McGrady came into my life in March 2010. I had driven up to Ashe County, in the far NW corner of NC, to evaluate a black tri-colored Aussie boy that I’d seen on Petfinder. The ad stated that the dog had been there “the longest of any animal here”. He evaluated very well and I signed the papers to pull him from the shelter for a rescue as my next foster dog. Only after they had placed him in my truck and shut the door did the ACO say, “oh, by the way, we think he’s deaf.” A quick trip to the Vet as well as my own 24h of observation confirmed that McGrady was, indeed, deaf. I hadn’t PLANNED on ever fostering, much less adopting, a deaf dog because, frankly, I knew it usually took a long time here in the SE to find appropriate (and interested) adopters and had thought it would be alot more work than working with a hearing dog.
Fortunately, I have 5 personal dogs, all with intact hearing, and had taken all 5 thru 3 levels of Obedience training using a clicker and hand signals. After a day or so of wondering how to train McGrady, I finally found www.deafdogs.org’s “Training Tips” page, which suggested using a Thumbs Up sign in lieu of the clicker. I must admit that training McGrady was amazingly easy. When I had been training my hearing dogs, I found that I often had to use food as a lure to get them to do things for me at first….not so with McGrady! He seemed so excited to have found a way to figure out what his human wanted that he would do whatever the command for the reward of a head rub or a pet (of course, I did throw in treats from time-to-time). I found that McGrady learned amazingly fast and was much more focused than several of my hearing dogs. I don’t know who was happier…McGrady that he could now relax and be successful in figuring out what a human wanted or ME for being able to train a deaf dog.
Long story short, McGrady quickly proved himself “bombproof” enough to work a huge event called the Southern Women’s Show with me after a mere 6 months of being in my home. 25000 people attend this event over 4 days. McGrady handled the long hours of performing tricks, being petted by/interacting with people and walking thru thick crowds in a heel with aplomb. Because of him, I have become an advocate for deaf dogs. As a team, we have educated people about deaf dogs on mountain tops, at fast food drive-thrus, at local parks and on sidewalks in front of pet supply stores. I love it when people go from saying, “oh poor baby” when they learn McGrady is deaf to saying, “Wow! How smart!!!” after he does a few tricks in response to the hand signals I give him.
After McGrady came into my life, I started reading materials on deaf dogs. Many misguided articles stated that they were basically “timebombs waiting to go off.” Well, I can say is that McGrady and most every properly socialized deaf dog I’ve ever met didn’t get that memo. McGrady is the most laidback dog that I own. He gets along great with every dog in my pack and is the one who usually initiates group wrestling matches. I still foster pups from time-to-time. McGrady has been a wonderful “big brother” to them and tolerates any amount of hair pulling, being pounced on and wrestling moves to which the pups try to subject him.
McGrady is also a big ole goofball! He loves meeting new people and will sometimes lean on them so hard that he nearly knocks them over. He enjoys hiking but he loves lounging in bodies of water the best of all. When I do group training exercises for all my dogs at once, McGrady wants to do every trick over-and-over again (so that HE is the one who earns the treat for doing it). As I like to say, McGrady is D.E.A.F….Dependable, Eager, Agile and FUN!!!!…and it just so happens that he cannot hear you…..
Sheley R. Revis, MD
Director, Rural Shelter Assistance Program