Update 4-07-2014: Zima has done it again!!! We got a last minute acceptance into the NACSW Nosework Trial this Sunday. I couldn’t pass up the chance to trial. Zima is still dealing with issues of new environments, but I choose to take this opportunity.

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Zima rocked it!!! She was able to find the target odor in two elements that we had never practiced. She has incredible drive. And she might have placed for some time awards if I wasn’t so hesitant to make sure she was on odor. But we didn’t go for time awards. We went for a title and that’s exactly what Zima got!!

What a great representation of deaf dogs and their abilities! We love our deaf baby!

Vicky Darnell

(Elizabeth Crites).


I am very proud to feature Zima’s Journey to  her Canine Good Citizen Award. We listed Zima up for adoption here on Deaf Dogs Rock and we were thrilled when we heard the great news she got adopted. We put her over into our Adopted Deaf Dogs Section and we also featured  Zima’s coming home story and Happy Tail in our Happy Tails section of our website. This week Zima’s human mommy sent us her story about her earning her Canine Good Citizen award. Thanks so much Elizabeth Crites for taking the time to share Zima’s encouraging stories with our Deaf Dogs Rock readers. ~ Christina Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock

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When Zima came home in February 2013, there was no doubt in my mind that she had a rough start in life. We did not have a history for her except that she was transferred from a high kill shelter in Tennessee to a rescue facility in Illinois. She was estimated to be 1 ½ to 2 years old. And while she had not been formally tested for personality, there was some doubt about her behavior around other dogs.


 I could not get Zima to make eye contact to save my life. Not with toys, treats, waving my hands or loud noises. She made an extra special effort not to look anyone in the eye. She was also extremely hand shy – making it exceptionally difficult to teach sign language to a deaf dog that hides when you start waving your hands around. This did not sit well with me. In my mind, this could only mean Zima had probably experienced abuse.

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 I began tether training immediately. While I was home, Zima was at my side. If we went out, Zima was at my side. She might not look at me, but she would learn that I was “safe”. Zima eventually learned to look ‘for’ me, but not ‘at’ me. I rewarded this check-in behavior heavily. If I wanted her to look at me someday, we had to start somewhere.

After being home only a few weeks, Zima started to learn the Nose Work game we played with Mac, her sister. When I pulled out a jar of scent, if Mac put her nose on it she got cookies. Zima wanted in on that action! She was already putting together that getting cookies was synonymous to good behavior. And because there were no “mean hands” in my house, she did not mind getting close to the scent jar or the cookies!

Zima began playing this game with fervor. I think it was the first time she felt like someone was talking to her. “Do this, and I will give you a cookie!” She would scratch at the box of scents when she wanted to play. Late February/early March, a good three weeks after coming home, much to my shock, amazement and utter joy – Zima looked me dead in the eye one day while playing “scent”. I can remember the moment like it lasted for an hour. I was so stunned, I couldn’t move. And when I did, I gave her all the treats I had in my hand! She sniffed the floor, looked around, sat and looked me in the eye again! This time I was ready – I gave her two thumbs up and more treats!

This became her new favorite game “look Momma in the eye”! Every time she looked at me, cookies. She became obsessed with getting me to look at her too.

After several weeks of this “game”, I started to add commands to her eye contact before she got cookies. And she took to this quickly. She learned sit, stay and down in one week. I was so excited that I enrolled her in a Canine Good Citizen class at a local training facility. However, it was not meant to be. Zima could not handle the excitement of so many other dogs. And we were rudely dismissed from the facility.

I was not deterred in the least. No one would dismiss me or my dog. I redoubled my efforts to teach, socialize, experience and properly redirect Zima. I had private training sessions with Lisa Bataska to learn more about Zima’s behavior and how to improve her responses to the world.

At home, I continued to train Zima in NoseWork to build her confidence and I employed training from AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program to teach Zima basic obedience skills.

It wasn’t until mid-October, a full nine months after being home, before I tried Zima in another class. This is a “Performance Dog” class designed to improve check in and focus on the handler regardless of the activity or situation around the dog. Because Lisa was teaching the class, I was confident she would not put Zima in a questionable situation either – it was a good fit (I hoped). Zima has been successful beyond my expectations!

Because of Zima’s continued improvement to her changing environment and wonderful progress at home, I felt confident she could test for her Canine Good Citizen award and pass. I reached out to trainer, Matt Mirro, who tested Mac for her CGC. He was thrilled to know we had trained a deaf dog and honored to test her!

November 7, 2013 Zima walked into the Agricultural facility of Joliet Junior College – a place she had never been before, dogs she had never met before – and passed her Canine Good Citizen test.

Zima made several friends, both human and dog. And she made one Momma very proud. Part of me said, “Well, of course, she did!” And part of me is still in shock about it.

On November 17th Zima will go for an Odor Recognition Test- the preliminary test to work in Nosework-for Birch and Anise. I am hoping to sign her up for formal NoseWork classes after that.

Nine months, more fights than I would care to talk about, too many days thinking I am the only one who believes this ispossible…and then we see a ray of light. Progress. Success.

I will not pretend that we have achieved world greatness, but these accomplishments, these small steps along the way, they add up to great success. And I get the privilege of watching it happen to my Zima!

She might march to the beat of a drum I cannot hear, but that doesn’t mean she cannot do it. It only means I have to find another way to make it happen for her.


Forever Zima’s Momma ~Elizabeth (aka Vicky Darnell)