Since DDR hasn’t featured a therapy dog story in awhile I was so excited to get Lilian Fukuda’s latest story of her deaf therapy dog Mel. Mel and Lilian do great work bringing awareness about special needs dogs to school children. Can you just imagine how excited the 4th graders at the California School for the Deaf were to meet a deaf dog like Mel? A dog the kids could relate to because of the silent world they live in. I also think they got a kick out of Lilian’s ASL signs. Thank you Lilian for sending Deaf Dogs Rock your therapy adventures with Mel.
! According to my deaf dog Nitro and I, you and Mel totally Rock! ~ Christina Lee – DDR
My therapy dog, Mel and I have been invited to speak to quite a few different groups. We have spoken to Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups; to grade school children; and, to adults who are interested in volunteering with their dogs. We talk about therapy dog work and volunteering in general. It’s always a lot of fun, and I really enjoy the exchanges we have with our audience. But last May, we had perhaps the best experience of all, in Ms. Classen and Ms. Sandez’s 4th grade class.
You see, these two teachers teach 4th grade at the California School for the Deaf, and their students were not only cute, smart and so much fun to hang out with; but, like Mel, they were deaf and relied on their eyes and hands for communication. I showed them many of the signals I use to communicate with Mel; some, they told me, were just like the American Sign Language they use, while other hand signals meant either nothing or something entirely different. I also showed them how I had to resort to other parts of my body to come up with even more signals, like my head, face and legs. They were impressed by how well Mel responded to our unique “language”, but most of all they liked how sweet and gentle she was.
Ms. Classen wrote, “As part of a service learning project the fourth graders had done for Global Youth Service Day, they had visited a shelter, interacted with two hearing dogs, and raised money to support an organization that trains shelter dogs prior to Mel’s visit. But the connection they felt with her was very different from the interactions with the other dogs (although they loved them, too!). They felt Mel belonged with them – that she was in the “in crowd”. She sees the world the way they do, through her eyes, touch, and facial expressions. They embraced that about her and were so excited and proud that she had been given an opportunity to accomplish so much.”
Below are some photos of Mel and me at the California School for the Deaf. I hope you enjoy our story. Thanks so much!
Because I don’t know ASL, I had an interpreter who translated everything I said.
I am showing the children my hand signal for “rope”. They giggled and told me it actually means “shoe” in ASL – silly me!
The children pointed out that the cue I made up for getting Mel to lie on her side means “dead” in ASL. That was a cool coincidence!
Mel really liked this 4th grader who showered her with attention
This student is cueing Mel to bow to her
Mel is paying close attention to this student who is about to cue her to sneeze. Yes, Mel can sneeze on command!
Mel likes it when she gets lots of treats for her job!
Mel and I will always think fondly of these fourth graders!