Deaf Pet Awareness Week is celebrated annually, during the last full week of September. Those who live with a deaf pet know that every day is cause for celebration! Erika G. is MMCo's Manager and the proud human of Matilda, a deaf double merle Australian Shepherd. Erika is passionate about the training and care of special needs pets and is excited to share her experiences.
A little over 4 years ago, my husband and I made the decision to adopt a third dog. As we began talking about the idea of adding a new family member I quickly decided that I wanted to save a double merle Australian Shepherd or Border Collie.
What is a "double merle", you ask? When two dogs with merle coats mate, the resulting litter of puppies may be born with hearing impairments, vision impairments or both, due to a genetic mutation.
Matilda and her litter mates were the result of two intact merle coated dogs who lived in the same home. Luckily, the human responsible for the accidental litter surrendered them over to Riley County Humane Society, and the rest is history!
Matilda was born completely deaf, with vision impairments, as well. Our border collie mix and border collie are such great dogs, I just knew they would be the perfect guides to a pup who needed a little extra help.
We believe Matilda’s vision allows her to see movement, shadows and shapes. I have spent time teaching different hand signs and guiding her with touch and movement. We speak to each other, just not in the traditional way that most pet parents are used to.
Matilda has taught me how to see the world through her eyes - which is mainly exploring with her nose. She learns in such a way that is completely different than any other dog I have ever seen. We play a lot of nose work games, as well as catch and fetch. Her nose is her most valuable tool!
If you are considering bringing a deaf dog into your family, I urge you to do your research! A deaf dog is not for everyone.
I feel that Matilda has learned so much from our “regular” dogs. They have been such great companions to Matilda and I think it is valuable to bring a deaf dog into a family with patient and understanding dogs to help guide them. They really can do just about anything a hearing dog can do!
Above all else, a deaf dog will need a very secure home and yard, as well as patient humans. They can learn and grow, just like any dog, but may need more guidance and patience from their family along the way.
Bringing Matilda into our family has been a challenge, but also such a blessing! If you are considering adopting a deaf pet, and have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I am always happy to share my experiences!
If you are interested in learning more about Double Merles, specifically, please visit this site.