My Deaf Dogs Have Superpowers!
Celebrating National Specially-Abled Pets Day
My deaf dogs aren’t disabled; my deaf dogs have superpowers! They may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (okay, maybe Foster could do that!) or kick patriarchy in the jittles like Wonder Woman, but they do possess some awesomely-impressive skills. With National Specially-Abled Pets Day coming up on May 3rd, I’ve decided to focus on their skills, accomplishments and how they’ve enriched our lives- not what some people mistakenly believe is a disadvantage or disability.
So yes, my deaf dogs have superpowers and, in my own special way, this post is my way of celebrating National Specially-Abled Pets Day!
The Backstory of Deaf Dogs
When educating people about deaf dogs- which is basically anytime I take them out in public- I always insist that my deaf dogs, Edison and Foster, aren’t disabled nor are they “special needs”.
My dogs were born deaf, so they do not miss their sense of hearing- you cannot miss something you never had. And senior dogs who experience age-related deafness generally lose their hearing slowly over time, allowing them to adapt to their change slowly without trauma or fear.
With the lack or loss of hearing, a dog’s sense of smell and sight become more important to the way he experiences and understands the world.
In many ways, my deaf dogs are much more aware of and in tune with what’s going on around them. I taught them early on to watch me, so vision plays an especially important role in their lives. They watch everything!
Sure, there are differences between living and communicating with and training a deaf dog vs. a hearing dog, but these differences affect pet parents much more than our dogs.
It is humans who depend so much on our voice to communicate with and interpret the world. It is also people who assign an emotional experience or meaning to a dog’s hearing-impairment, one that is based on well-intentioned but false assumptions, not facts.
But dogs? They don’t have pity parties. They just get up and get on with the day. Life is too short and there are too many butts and trees to sniff to waste time moping around in Pity City!
Edison: My Muse, My Savior, My ESA
When I started thinking about National Specially-Abled Pets Day, I started to think about my muse and savior Edison and his story- no, our story– and just how much I owe him.
My husband will tell you that the connection between Edison and me is palpable and one that doesn’t fit neatly into words. Our relationship cannot be explained without sharing my personal childhood experiences, for they are so tightly intertwined that one cannot be understood without the context of the other.
You see, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I first wrote of my story here. My experiences have left me with PTSD, extreme anxiety and Bipolar Type II, a mood disorder which I battle everyday. The handfuls of pills twice daily help too…better living through chemicals I say.
But this isn’t about me. This is about Edison. This is about a deaf dog who came into my life unexpectedly and changed my path forever. This is about a deaf dog who has helped me heal and in the process became a superhero. My superhero. With very specific superpowers to match.
Edison, from the day I met him as a ten-week old puppy, has always possessed an ability to calm any room, no matter the noise or chatter. He has an energy that comforts people and makes them feel at peace in the world and their bodies- warts, demons and all.
As such, and because he and I are so in-sync with one another, he knows when my PTSD and extreme anxiety are kicking my butt and he comes to me, making physical contact, unwilling to leave my side until it passes and I can function. He’s a legit for real Emotional Support Animal (ESA) and he saves me on the regular.
I find safety in his soft, warm breath against my body, sleeping the deep, peaceful sleep of a dog who cannot hear the rumble of trucks, schoolchildren laughing their way home or the neighbor’s dog barking at the postman, marking the hour every day at four.
Perhaps our relationship feels so safe because Edison was my first deaf dog, and we were forced to learn to communicate differently with each other- with soft, fluid motions of the hand, undetectable to most people not in the know. It feels like a secret language, one we learned and crafted together, and now, 5 years on, not speaking seems to be the most natural way of communicating.
Communication like this creates an atmosphere where bonding on the deepest level can occur. Yes, maybe that’s it.
How Can You Help?
Here are just a few of the deaf dogs needing homes in Florida. Click image the image below to learn more about these dogs as well as see all the deaf dogs throughout the country currently listed on Deaf Dogs Rock.
But Why Deaf Dogs?
Because of my early childhood experiences and those traumatic adolescent years as an out gay student (who also happened to listen to punk rock and it’s offspring rather than that loathsome Top 40 music everyone else listened to), I’ve always gravitated towards the underdog- human, canine or otherwise. And who embodies otherness as frequently as a deaf dog? Heck, most people have never considered that a dog can be deaf, let alone how they might communicate with one.
In my house, however, things are different. Here, deaf dogs are honored. They are respected and valued and provided the training they need to live normal, happy lives. Their deafness is celebrated and their needs- physical, medical and social- are met every single day, to the best of our ability.
It is from this vantage point, inspired by Edison and guided by a desire to help all deaf dogs and their pet parents, that 4 years ago I started to write this blog. I hoped that by talking about deaf dogs and by sharing my experiences, thoughts and advice, I could raise awareness while honoring my sweet, healing Edison.
Here in the home I’ve created with my husband, deaf dogs are celebrated as the magical creatures they are- for it was in a ten-week old deaf Pit Bull mix puppy that I discovered a path towards healing and a new career.
When I look at my life today- a professional blogger and freelance writer sharing my passion for deaf dogs- and yes, street art too!, I sometimes pinch myself.
How did a deaf dog guide me away from my career as a vet tech working in shelter medicine to being a stay-at-home pet parent who has started chasing dreams and catching more than a few?
Instead of wearing scrubs and frantically scrubbing anal gland secretions off my body, I find my days are frequently spent with a deaf dog named Edison- snuggling, napping and resting our heads on each other’s body, at peace for a few moments in the quiet of a lazy afternoon.
I think many things define a superhero dog with superpowers. Some are dramatic displays of courage, dogs risking their lives to save children from fires or entire families from intruders. Some are survival stories of neglect, abuse or abandonment. Other dogs, like Edison, have quieter stories, ones that do not make the news. I think it is these unsung heroes that National Specially-Abled Pets Day is really about!