Above: The Darnell Family with rockin all their Awards and ribbons! 

I never thought one dog would change the world…and yet here we are!  As I write this update, we are on the eve of Mac’s 10th birthday. The one who started it all.  The one who made me believe this stuff was easy.  The one.

We were so fortunate to see the post of ‘last call’ for the runt puppy.  Mac was everything we could want in a puppy.  Full of energy and snuggly.  Ready to do all the things and take a nap.  Play all the games and show off for everyone.  Of course, I thought we could add a second dog without a problem.  And Zima came home to us.  (Her story can be found here)  Because we obviously hadn’t reached a level of craziness just yet, we found Chance and added our third dog in three years to the house.  (Chance’s story is here) Jeff and I agreed we were a full house.  Or so we thought.  Jeff was kind enough to respond to a message about a ‘strong willed young lady’ who ‘needs a home that will teach her and not break her spirit’.  Jeff was quick to respond that we could handle that job.  Nitro came home in August of 2016 (you can read about that here)  and that’s how this became my circus and my monkeys.


As we prepare to celebrate Mac’s 10 years, we are enjoying the memories and planning for more!  And we are shocked at how fast the years have gone.  Mac is an accomplished bird hunter.  She regularly attends hunts for dove, duck, and geese. She has been on a handful of pheasant hunts.  Through hunting, we discovered the sport of nose work…and Mac loves that game.  She has earned her Elite Champion Title in NACSW and her Grand Champion Title in UKC—all while enjoying the games that also earned her Canine Good Citizen Advanced and Urban, Master Dock Diving, Advanced Trick Dog, and BCAT (100 yard dash, where she averages 25mph) titles.

I think it’s important to highlight Mac’s hard work in our pack.  Not only is she our only hearing dog, but also the one who gave us the confidence to do all the sports and try this fun with our deaf dogs.

Photo above: Mac  Dock Diving 

Above: Mac with some of his Award ribbons 

Mac and Zima are like peas and carrots.  Those two have been inseparable since the day Zima came home to us.  As Zima was our first deaf dog, there were plenty of concerns for us about training and dog to dog interaction.  Zima gave us the confidence in raising deaf dogs that Mac gave us in working with hearing dogs.

Zima will be 11 this year—and thankfully, she hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Where Mac is happy to show off for the ribbons and awards, Zima has zero interest in anyone’s opinion of her.  She shares Mac love of running around the hunting field, but not retrieving a bird.  She is one of the best dock diving dogs but will not jump in a competition.  Zima has mastered every trick I have ever shown her but refuses to participate when I start to video.  Even through these oddities, we have earned amazing titles together.  Zima has her Canine Good Citizen Advanced and Urban titles, Advance Trick Dog, NW2 in NACSW, and Champion Nosework in UKC.

Photos above: Mac and Zima enjoying each other’s company.


Zima is easy going and will work for anyone.  Her Champion Nosework Title in UKC was earned with a lady, Keri, who had only worked with Zima a couple of times.  She is, by far, the best snuggler in the house—and has the most amazing sleeping positions!  Next to her Daddy, Zima’s favorite people are children followed by a close second of puppies.

Above: Zima snoozing 

Chance.  Where do we even begin with “The Boy”? He was the one we thought we couldn’t handle.  He was the one we thought we would have to make some tough decisions about.  In reality, Chance’s struggles were less about his deafness and more about the rough start he had in life.   Through the generous support of Laurie Metzger at All Paws Rescue (where Chance came from), we discovered Chance needed a lot more structure and routine to his day. As much as he needed exercise – both physically and mentally – he also needed rest.  I planned nap breaks during his day and this made all the difference in his ability to function in our home and with our requirements.

Chance blossomed under this set up.  Not long after that, I began taking him for regular chiropractic visits.  What an amazing transformation!  Seriously, if you do sports with your dogs, find a reputable chiro for your dogs. Their work is invaluable to the health of your pups.  We have found Dr. Rosemary LoGiudice of Animal Rehab Therapy to be a lifesaver!  www.animalrehabtherapy.com  

Chance’s head tilt isn’t nearly as severe as it was when we brought him home.  His balance was improving.  He initiated play with the other dogs.  And his goofey personality came out.

He is no slouch when it comes to keeping up with Mac and Zima in the competitions and titles.

Chance has earned his NW2 in NACSW, his Grand Champion Nosework Title in UKC, and a Novice Trick Dog Title.  We work agility to give him body awareness….but his quirky personality allows him to make exceptions to the rules.

Above: Sweet Chance 


Nitro.  They say you save the best for last, but I don’t know about this one.  All of my dogs are special to me, but once in awhile you find a dog that stretches you to the limits of your knowledge, ability, and patience.  And that’s where we meet Nitro.  This dog has mad skillz.  And I am severely lacking as a handler!

Above: Our sweet deaf dog Nitro

Nitro is prone to getting frustrated with me when I cannot keep up.  I have zero ability to follow agility numbers on a course.  More than once I’ve gotten barked at because I went the wrong way while she was on track.

Her favorite trick is to ‘work’ people over.  If she can weasel a treat out of you for doing nothing, she will.  While she will do nosework for anyone, if you show any signs of weakness she will outright false just to mess with you as a handler.  Although, while being run by Jo at a trial in February, Nitro earned her Champion Nosework Title…so once in awhile she can behave herself!

Nitro is working on both impulse control and recall.  If we plan to do more dog sports, these are vital tools for us to have.

Nitro is 100% on or she is sound asleep.  And I love that about her.

She wasted no time working on her titles as well.  Nitro has her Canine Good Citizen, Novice Trick Dog Title, BCAT (100 yard dash, where she averages 25mph), NW2 in NACSW, and Champion Nosework Title in UKC.  Nitro ran several practice tracks for deer tracking last year and we are hoping to get some actual tracks for her this year.

Zima, Chance, and Nitro have provided inspiration for both our local animal control and clubs from Iowa to Indiana. As we see more deaf dogs in the community, I love that people are seeing all the activities the dogs are involved in and they are encouraged to train amd trial their dogs as well.
We never set out to be advocates for anything, but we are thrilled, that by living our lives, our dogs can show others the possibilities.

Above: The Darnell dog family with all of their accomplishments and awards. 

The last 10 years have gone by in a blink of an eye.  I’m so excited for the adventures we will find in the next 10 years!!



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