Romeo’s Happy Tail by Christina Santos
Some new friends of mine listed a dog named JoJo on the Deaf Dogs Rock website a few months back. My groomer contacted me because she knew I’m the North Florida Representative for Low Rider Dachshund Rescue of Florida and could help with JoJo. (Even though he’s not a doxie, I still have a lot of connections and I figured I could help place him).
A couple found JoJo. Johnny and Georgia found him tied out to a tree with no shelter from the elements. He had lived his entire life about 5 years like tied to a tree. His ears were openly bleeding from the flies and he was at death’s door from neglect and starvation. Johnny said he wasn’t leaving without him. He just couldn’t do it. They convinced the owner to do an owner surrender and they spent months rehabilitating him in their home. It took two months before JoJo was comfortable enough to even enter their house without wanting to retreat to the safety of their garage that they converted to his den. Through their kind patience and love, he learned to eat from a bowl instead of the on the ground. He also learned human touch is not always painful, but can also be kind.
Georgia and Johnny treated JoJo for heart-worms, which were apparently quite severe, since he had received no veterinary care whatsoever in his entire life. As they got to know him, they realized he was deaf which broke their heart knowing just how bleak the situation was that JoJo came from. Georgia told me that she believed he wouldn’t have survived another month because it was a particularly cold winter in South Carolina.
Once JoJo was healthy (he gained 12 lbs in the first month alone) and was well socialized after living with their two American Bulldogs, they felt comfortable trying to find him a home of his own. This is where my part of the story begins.
Earlier this spring, I was in a terrible car accident that caused some potentially permanent damage to my head and spine. I have continued migraines and anxiety when I drive. My physician has suggested that I consider a service dog to help cut down on the amount of medication I take daily and to ease my anxiety/PTSD after my accident. It’s been proven that dogs can calm a person, which releases endorphins and oxytocin. A good service dog can actually smell when their owner is having an attack and come to their aid.
We renamed JoJo and gave him a new name of Romeo. We selected Romeo as a new name because he is such a lover. I hadn’t actually considered him for use as my service dog when I agreed to help place him, I was just compelled by his story. I took him in and had several families interested in meeting him. After fostering Romeo for a week, he bonded so closely with me following me from room to room, never breaking eye contact. He also began standing between me and the front door whenever I opened it, not growling, just standing there.
He learns Deaf Dog Sign Language (DDSL) quickly, thanks to his love of tennis balls. My local tennis club recently donated nearly 50 used tennis balls for his training! A neighbor told the tennis pro about Romeo and how I was training him for adoption and I got a call asking if I needed any extra balls. The tennis club said I could come by once a month if I need more tennis balls (whatever balls I don’t use, I’ll donate to Low Rider Dachshunds and to my local shelter).
My wonderful neighbor girl is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and she is donating her time to teach us ASL for community service hours credit on her college resumé. The more I got to know Romeo aka “Meo” the more I realized he would be my first foster failure in more than 20 years of rescue.
I had a bout of vertigo (dizziness) last week and he was particularly clingy to me. He stood closer than normal, always right next to me and for the first time ever he tried to enter the shower with me. I didn’t understand at the time what he was doing but now I know it was because he was worried about me. He sat and watched me from outside the glass door the whole time, bless him.
Tonight, I had my first migraine since he’s been here. He instinctively hopped on my bed and instead of sleeping at my feet (closest to the door like he usually does), he curled up around my head. He didn’t move for nearly 4 hours when my other dogs became restless because it was feeding time.
Meo showed me exactly what a service dog does before I even knew he was doing it. It’s more than obvious that he is my service dog in training now. We are currently working with a professional trainer to make sure Romeo is becomes a Good Canine Citizen and is well mannered in public.
Thank God for Johnny and Georgia. And thank God for Romeo. I am much happier to have him and can hopefully begin to live more normally with him at my side.
Christina Santos & Meo (formerly JoJo)