Hi! I’m Nitro and I’m the head dog at Deaf Dogs Rock. And this is my story.
In November 2010, I was found down by the river on Front Street in Salem, VA, by a City of Salem Animal Control officer. I was taken to the Salem Animal Shelter where they discovered I was completely deaf. I was 10 weeks old. The shelter thinks I came from a Boxer breeder who upon discovering I was deaf, decided to dump me near the river.
The shelter Director, Rebecca Hall, has a friend named Christina who would come by the shelter to take photos of dogs available for adoption to list on Facebook. When Christina called saying she was coming by that week, Rebecca told her she had something to show her. Christina thought it might be a new litter of puppies to photograph. Rebecca had a different kind of surprise in mind.
It was a cold winter’s day in November when I met Christina. I was a very thin, little white boxer who was 100% deaf and Rebecca asked Christina if there was any way she and her husband Chris could adopt me.
Christina and Rebecca had become friends through their love of horses. She’d been to Christina’s farm and knew it had secure, six-foot-tall dog fencing and a big yard. Rebecca knew this would be the best place for a deaf dog like me to grow up. Christina already has 3 dogs and 3 horses, and she didn’t know anything about training a special needs dog. She told Rebecca she’d think about it and get back to her.
Christina went home and told Chris the story about a poor little skinny white deaf boxer who needed a home and showed him my photo. He just looked at her and said, “Go ahead, call Rebecca and tell her we’ll be by in the morning to pick up our new puppy. Then let’s go to PetSmart to buy a crate, a deaf dog tag and puppy supplies.”
Christina couldn’t believe her ears! Who does that? Who just looks at a photo of a funny looking, pitiful little white dog—that also happens to be deaf—and just jumps right in and says, “Yes! Let’s go get him?” Her husband does, that’s who!
When she made the call to the shelter to let them know she would save me, all she could hear was the sound of everyone at the shelter screaming with joy. (Even I could hear them!) The happy news made their day! Everyone was so afraid someone else would adopt me and that they’d hear later that I had died. They feared I would only have to escape once in the city to be hit by a car that I won’t hear coming.
That night, my future parents went to PetSmart and bought me a crate, food, toys, a dog halter, a leash and had a special dog tag made with ‘Nitro’ on it and under my name it said, “(DEAF DOG)” — they wanted to be prepared the minute they picked me up.
They also stayed up until 1:00 am, reading and watching videos on deaf dog training to learn the best way to train me. They discovered there aren’t a whole lot of resources out there for new owners of deaf dogs. They decided they would use American Sign Language (ASL) on me and would have to learn the basics. They even watched one particular video over and over again to get some of the ASL training signs down.
When they picked me up, they also made an appointment at the vet to have me micro-chipped just in case I got loose. They then took me home and introduced me to their other three dogs. We all got along great and were out playing in the back yard within the same hour of being introduced — although their Min Pin, Lexi, didn’t really want anything to do with me. (Little Miss Lexi still to this day barely puts up with my silly antics.)
I could tell my new parents really cared about me. They even made sure I wore a sweater at all times when I was outside in the cold because of my thin coat of hair.
After the first 48 hours of being here on the farm, my mommy was not able to control my crazy, wild side and I think I freaked her out a bit. She told my dad they might have bitten off a little more then they could chew but he reassured her they would sign up me for training for at least the first six months. This made her feel a lot better after her little break down and she decided to go check out Field of Dreams Dog Training Center in Vinton, VA. She heard they were having a Christmas Open House and decided to attend and meet everyone. I even got my photo taken with Santa!
After our first orientation, they signed me up for six months to see if I could earn my AKC Canine Good Citizen Certification. I was their first deaf dog in training. My mommy made sure we really worked hard on everything we learned in the previous class so that by the time our next class came around, I was up to speed on everything. Everyone said I was amazing in class because I was deaf. I know that sounds funny but it was true. Since I couldn’t hear, I had no sound distractions and always kept my eyes on my mommy.
The instructors couldn’t get over what a good dog I was in class. (Let me share a little secret: My mommy had to play with me for about 45 minutes straight before we went to class so I would pay attention to her and not be a crazy puppy.) It didn’t take long but she soon figured out a good routine that worked out well for both of us. I soared through my classes and went from puppy class to level 4 training in six weeks. I was doing so well that my mommy signed me up for an eight week tricks class.
In June, I passed my AKC Canine Good Citizen test and I’m now AKC CGC Certified. My parents were so proud because I was only 10 months old. I’m now on my way to becoming a therapy dog, taking the Delta Society’s Therapy Pet Partners Training program!
My mommy says I’m truly an inspiration and would highly recommend adopting a deaf dog but only if you are committed to a dedicated training schedule to build a strong foundation for your deaf dog. She believes that if you accept the challenge of giving a deaf dog a forever home, you will need patience, imagination, perseverance, understanding, education, love and sometimes some unusual training tools; In return you will be rewarded with a wonderful and loving companion.
My parents have totally changed my life — and I theirs. I even inspired them to create DeafDogsRock.com to help other deaf dog owners, educate the public about deaf dogs, be an advocate for deaf dogs and also try to find deaf dogs homes. My parents say if it wasn’t for me there would be no Deaf Dogs Rock.
I hope you enjoy my story and I invite you to share it with your friends.
Parents: Christina & Chris