My boyfriend Brendan and I have been involved with a great no-kill shelter (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group – DAWG) in Santa Barbara for over a year now. We started as foster parents to a succession of small dogs, all of whom were fun in their own ways, but none of whom we grew too attached to.
In November 2010, we were emailed by the foster coordinator about a pit bull puppy she was considering pulling out of the Santa Maria shelter. We were told that the puppy was about 4 months old and 25 lbs. We were also told that the puppy was deaf. The picture attached to the email was of a little white pup with her face smushed by the hand holding it up for the camera. I took one look at that little smushed face and emailed the coordinator that we would take her until she could find a permanent home.
A week later, when we went to pick up Miss Devin we found out that she was actually six months old and 35 lbs. She was stuffed in a crate that was far too small for her, and overall looked incredibly upset. We got her home that night, and she immediately investigated the whole place very thoroughly, then hopped up on the couch and went to sleep. Over the next few weeks we found out a few things about her – that she wasn’t particularly well house-trained, that getting her to stop rummaging in the trash involved actually getting up and pulling her out of it, and that she had demodex mange. According to the instructions from the vets at DAWG, we began a treatment involving a medicated bath twice a week.
Unfortunately, we had to leave Devin in the shelter for three weeks while we went to LA for Christmas. When we came back, we found her with her chest completely bald and bloodied from scabs she had created scratching at the mites. She came home with us, and we began an aggressive new treatment of Ivermectin. Slowly she got better, and by February she was well enough to finally be spayed. She was still itchy, but at least she had fur on her chest.
The day Devin was spayed was one of the most stressful days of my life. I worried about her constantly. When I picked her up at the end of the day, I nearly cried with relief…relief that soon turned to irritation as I realized she would not keep her E-cone on. We barely left her alone with it on for half an hour and she had it off and chewed almost beyond recognition. After that we just kept a close eye on her, but she never once licked at her stitches.
In March, a friend of mine from the shelter came over to our house and saw me on the couch with Devin stretched out full length on my chest, sound asleep. She took one look at the scene and told me, “She’s your dog. You should adopt her.” I knew this was true, but I still thought for a long time before I decided to adopt Devin. I was still a student at the time, and I worried what would happen if I had to move back to my parents’ house after graduation. Finally I decided that I really couldn’t give this dog up to someone else, that I would just have to do what was necessary to keep her and give her the best home possible. On May 5th, 2011 – the day I designated as Devin’s first birthday – I adopted my girl. She has become an integral part of my life, and I cannot imagine life without her, as corny as that sounds. She greets me every morning with kisses and wags, and she makes sure I know she missed me when I come home from work.
She is special in so many ways, not the least of which is her deafness. Because she can’t hear, we never let her off-leash in an unsecured area, and when we want her attention we often make complete fools of ourselves waving our hands around in the air, but she isn’t bothered by the obnoxiously loud music our neighbors play at all hours. She’s pretty well-trained and knows sit, down, come, stay, and leave it. We’re working on getting her AKC Canine Good Citizen certified, and I’ve thought about using her boundless energy on an agility course. Mostly though, our favorite thing to do with her is cuddle on the couch at the end of a long day and it’s what she does best!
One of the best things Devin has ever done is to help rehabilitate one of the pit bulls at DAWG that the staff considered to be a resident. “Nephew Tommy,” as he was known at the shelter, was literally the first dog Brendan and I saw upon walking into DAWG for the first time. He was leaning against the front of his kennel, and looked incredibly depressed. We soon found out that, although he adores people and can never get enough attention from them, he hated all other dogs, and would attack and possibly injure or kill another dog if given a chance.
The general consensus at DAWG was that he had been used as a “bait dog” in dog fights – a completely disgusting practice in which they tape the bait dog’s muzzle shut and throw him to a fighter as warm up. Because of this, Tommy assumes that every dog he sees wants to kill him, so he tries to protect himself by striking preemptively. Unfortunately, this makes him very difficult to walk when there are other dogs around, and at DAWG there are always other dogs around, so Tommy didn’t get walked that often.
Brendan went through a bunch of special training so that he could take Tommy out for walks off site where there wouldn’t be so many dogs around, and he did a lot of training with him on those walks. He taught Tommy to walk calmly on a loose leash, and he eventually got him to relax enough that he stopped lunging at dogs that were across the street. With Brendan, Tommy learned to sit, stay, go down, and heel. He got lots of loving and treats during each walk, and was generally a different dog outside of his kennel. But once back inside the shelter and his kennel, he reverted right back to old habits.
After we adopted Devin, we very carefully began to introduce Tommy to her. We took them on long walks together, keeping them carefully separated at first. Because Tommy had a phobia of muzzles, we weren’t able to keep one on him, so we had to be really careful about keeping them apart. Soon enough we were able to walk them side by side. After about a month of this, we decided to try bringing him home for a long weekend, with every intention of returning him to the shelter after his vacation. We carefully kept them separated with portable fence set up dividing the house in two. In the beginning, every time Devin approached the fence, Tommy would growl at her. Since she couldn’t hear him she never reacted to it, and he eventually stopped doing it. We crated him during the night so that they couldn’t interact while we were asleep, but so that we still had both of them in the same room.
It took only three days for Tommy to settle in. After that, Brendan simply took the fence down and the rest, as they say, is history. Tommy and Devin have been best buddies ever since. Tommy has been living with us for about 6 months now, and in that time he has grown very attached to his little sister. He is very aware of her inability to hear, and he compensates for it in the home and when we are out on walks. He tells her when I have said something important (usually “breakfast” or “supper” or “walk”), and he lets her know when he hears my or Brendan’s car drive up. On walks, he keeps his eyes up ahead and his ears alert because she almost never lifts her nose from the ground (she has been known to walk into poles doing that). Every night they curl up together in their bed to sleep, and all day long they play chase and tug-o-war. Tommy very rarely growls anymore, only when they’re playing tug usually, and he only barks if Brendan is playing with him.
As of now, “Thomas the Tank Engine” is still somewhat aggressive towards other dogs – what we call “stranger dogs” – but he’s never aggressive towards Devin. They do everything together, and they tend to feed off of each others moods. People who knew Tommy at DAWG swear he’s a completely different dog than he was just 6 months ago. He’s gentle and often licks Devin’s face, and not just because she’s got some food on it. If Devin hadn’t come into our lives, we probably never would have brought Tommy home. She had a huge role in saving Tommy’s life, and she continues to make him happy every day.
This story was submitted by Miss Devin’s human mommy Sarah Kaufman.
According to my deaf dog Nitro and I, Sarah and Devin totally ROCK! Sarah thanks so much for sharing Miss Devin’s Happy Tail with our Deaf Dogs Rock family. ~Christina and Nitro