This is Merlin’s Happy Tail told by Merlin’s human mom Katie Rannou.

To say that Merlin has changed our lives would be a total understatement; he has completely blown our minds every day since February 2012, when he became a part of our family.

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 Both my husband and I have always been “dog people,” but we waited to get a dog together until we had a house and a nice backyard. Our first dog that we adopted was Josie, a 5 year old female Boxer who had been rescued from a severe abuse and neglect situation. She was one of the most timid and terrified dogs that I had ever seen, but behind those scared eyes, we saw a sweet girl who just wanted to be loved. After much patience, coaxing, and LOTS of treats, Josie started to come out of her shell a little bit more every day. We noticed that much of her fear subsided when she was with other dogs, so we decided to adopt another dog. For several months prior to deciding to adopt another dog, we had been perusing the website of Atlanta Boxer Rescue, a rescue group in our area. After several “meet and greets” with available dogs, we were asked if we would be interested in meeting a 6 year old Boxer named Grace.

At first, we were hesitant because of Grace’s age, but we decided to go ahead and meet her, just in case she was meant for us. Luckily for us, we did, and she came home with us that very day. From the first time they met, our two sweet old girls were like two peas in a pod. They were each other’s best friend and protector, and they brought us such joy and unconditional love. They were a perfect fit for each other, and for us as well. Sadly, 11 months after we adopted Grace, it was discovered that she had a very aggressive cancer, and she would not be able to be kept comfortable for very much longer. We made the best decision for her, and in order to help her pass on without pain or loss of dignity, we had her put down. I carried the pain in my heart and a lump in my throat throughout the following week, because she was such a sweet and wonderful girl, and I missed her immensely. In addition to our sadness, we realized that Josie was becoming very depressed and reverting back to a lot of her old behaviors. She had made far too much progress to go back now, so we knew that the only right thing for us to do would be to find Josie another companion. Little did we know, Merlin had been waiting for us the whole time!

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 We met Merlin on February 11, 2012, and decided to adopt him ten minutes into our “meet and greet”. His charisma was infectious, and you couldn’t help but smile when you saw him. He was a big, goofy, lovable guy, and he charmed us within moments of meeting him. As soon as he bounded into the house, he and Josie started sniffing each other and running around the living room. As any other Boxer owner knows, we knew that the type of playing that would likely ensue was better-suited for outside! They chased each other, wrestled, boxed, and snuggled; seeing Josie get her “zip” back when she was with him really sealed the deal for us. She loved him as much as we did, and we knew that he was meant for our family.

Upon meeting Merlin, everyone is struck by how happy, friendly, and loving he is. He greets everyone with such excitement, and no one is ever able to make it too far past the front door without getting a huge, wet kiss. He is the most affectionate dog that either of us has ever had; he wants nothing more than to love and be loved. As with many other Boxers, he likes to be touching you at all times, whether that means lying on your feet, or laying his entire 80 pound body on top of you! He is SUCH a cuddler!!!

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 As you may have noticed, I haven’t said anything about Merlin being deaf. He is totally deaf, and has been that way since birth. The reason that I haven’t mentioned it very much is because it is not an issue for us, and it is certainly not one that affects him either. Initially, I felt as though it would be a big hurdle for all of us to overcome, in terms of having a deaf dog, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. When he came to us, his foster family had taught him about a dozen signs.

Though tremendously full of energy, he has always been very attentive and responsive. In addition to watching us for signs, he learned to follow Josie’s lead. He picked up on our schedule and routine very quickly, and I would venture to say that he is one of the smartest and most well-adjusted dogs that I know. He is very obedient and protective, and people are usually in awe when we tell them that he is deaf, because he is “such a good dog.” I think that many people share the misconception that a deaf dog is going to be disobedient, unruly, or out of control. The funny thing is, having a deaf dog is really not that much different than having a hearing dog, just that you need to communicate with them in a different way.

From day 1, Merlin has made himself at home here, and he is very proud to be one of his family’s protectors, along with Josie. We have been so lucky in that we have been blessed with three great rescue dogs, all of whom “clicked” with us immediately. Last year, when I became pregnant, many people asked about whether or not we would feel comfortable “having big dogs around a baby.” Many people were concerned that Merlin would be “unfit” to share a home with an infant, because he was deaf and “could be unpredictable” (which was so funny to me, because deafness does not equal unpredictability).

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 Photo of Frank and Merlin. 

 As we would with any dog, we watch Merlin and Josie when they are around our son, and both of them have been nothing but gentle. Frank (our son) and Merlin are best buddies, and each of them seems to light up when the other comes into the room. He is 7 months old now, so he is crawling, rolling, and moving everywhere. Merlin loves to follow him around, and will lie down beside him once he comes to a “resting spot.” From the time Frank was very young and would play on his play mat, Merlin would assume his position by the side of the mat, just watching Frank play. Oftentimes, he would get in quite a few kisses, which always made Frank laugh. Now that he is getting older, Frank loves to crawl over to Merlin, sit up, and pet him. We love watching them together, and feel so lucky that Frank is going to grow up with such great dogs. He has built-in playmates who love him like crazy, and we can’t wait to see how much fun they will all have once he starts walking!!!

If you couldn’t tell from everything I have written about our dogs, but especially Merlin, we are so blessed that they are a part of our family. Life just wouldn’t be the same without all of the kisses, snuggling, and drool. While having any dog, but especially a dog with special needs, is a big responsibility, it is more than worth it. You will get back ten times the love that you give them, because all they really want to do is love you and make you happy. While each of our dogs were considered “less than desirable” by many people, in our eyes, they were just perfect.

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 *** Before meeting Merlin in person, I knew of him through my work with Atlanta Boxer Rescue. Every year, we put together a calendar with some of the year’s best “success stories”. I had written a bio about Merlin, since everyone was sure that he would be adopted by the time the calendar was published. For some reason (and I like to think that it’s because he was waiting for us!), he was not adopted by anyone for 13 months, which was the longest time any dog had ever been in the rescue. I think that made it that much sweeter for everyone when he was finally adopted. I just think it is so neat that, after writing his “happy tail” for the calendar, we were actually the ones that got to give him his forever home!

Here is the calendar entry I wrote about Merlin back on August 16th, 2011. Little did I know (or maybe I actually did) that we would actually be the one giving him the kindness, patience, and lots of love!

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To say that Merlin had a rough start in life would be an understatement; fortunately for him though, his life has made a complete turn-around. When ABR came to Merlin’s rescue (after he was given up by another rescue, due to the mounting costs of his care), he was extremely underweight, malnourished, and in pain. He had a severe case of mange, which had not been treated, which caused him pain and hair loss over almost his entire body. As if that wasn’t enough, it was discovered that Merlin was deaf. Many people would think that, with all of those factors against him, it would be easy to count Merlin out, but that was not so! Despite his challenges, Merlin is a happy, playful, and loving Boxer boy. Every day since his rescue, he has worked to gain physical strength and learn new things. He is very smart, as he has mastered several hand signals (sit, no, back up) that allow people to communicate with him. His determination to please is not lost on anyone who meets him; he immediately makes his way into your heart as your new best friend (and couch companion, if allowed!) . His story, and his spirit, is an inspiration and a testament to just how far a little love and TLC can take someone or something. Merlin is now living the life he always should have had: one filled with kindness, patience, and lots of love!

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