My dog, Nicholas, is just like every other dog except one thing, he was born deaf.

My dog, Nicholas, is just like every other dog except one thing, he was born deaf. I rescued him from a no kill shelter in a small Texas town when he was just a couple months old. I was not told he was deaf and didn't find out until a couple days later. Nicholas would get so exhausted from playing, he would curl up in the oddest places making him hard to find. After play time one day, I was yelling his name and he didn't come running, actually, there was silence. I began frantically looking around for him and asking my parents if they left the door open on accident thinking he ran away. A few minutes later, he was found. A quiet sleeping puppy behind the couch. I began to test his hearing, "NICHOLAS" I yelled, with consecutive loud clapping, nothing. Not even a flinch.

I took him to the vet a few days later, and it was confirmed, he was born deaf. I had never heard of a dog being born deaf before, but I started doing my research and found a whole community of deaf dogs. I started training him myself right away with hand signals. My hand signs for sit lay down, come here, no, and bark is all signs that I can make with my hands while easily holding a treat. He responded so well! The training process for basic commands was much easier than I had anticipated, but then some challenges came in. I knew my dog was deaf, but not everyone else did. At the time Nicholas was about 2 years old, I lived in an apartment complex with a dog park attached that we frequented. Most of the other dog owners knew that Nicholas was deaf, but it's hard for people to remember when most dogs can hear.

On one occasion, I was at the dog park with Nicholas and one other dog. Playtime was in full swing! Until another man and his dog entered the park. The owner was on his phone and was not paying attention when all of a sudden Nicholas and his dog got into a fight! I was in shock, I had no idea what to do! The other dog's owner started yelling at Nicholas "GET OFF MY DOG" and continued to kick Nicholas ending the fight. I was fuming! The owner then continued to yell at me and asked why I hadn't told Nicholas to stop and I replied with,"He can't hear, he's deaf". The man's face turned white and he was silent. He knew Nicholas was deaf but had completely forgotten. He now knew he was in the wrong. 

Unlike other people, I am so used to owning a deaf dog that I forget other animals can hear. Because of his lack of hearing, Nicholas is very affectionate and is always either leaning on me, watching me, or touching me. That makes our bond uniquely special, we completely understand each other. He has also learned how to read my facial expressions. I like to joke with him and make a scowling face just to see his reaction. He instantly refuses eye contact and sometimes lowers his head. Then I will change my facial expression to overjoyed and excited and he will come trotting up tail wagging. It's truly amazing. 

Catherine Murphey

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