Why undertake this adventure?   5 comments


There is a silent killer of puppies all over the world.  Puppies who are born healthy and beautiful.  The puppies come from many breeds–shelties, great Danes, collies, Australian shepherds, bulldogs and many more.  Their conformation can be very good as they usually come from very good parentage.  But all too often, they die shortly after birth.

Why do these beautiful babies die before they can be given a good home?

They’re white, or very lightly marked.  Breeders often ‘cull’ the little animals, putting white or light pups to sleep or just not pulling them out of the sacks that they’re born in.  These puppies are then thrown out like so much trash, their brief lives never acknowledged to anyone, forgotten by the entire world, other than their breeder.

The issue, if you’re wondering, is that the lack of pigment in certain breeds of dog leads to deafness.  Almost all white dane puppies born to Harlequin parents are born deaf.  Breeders who don’t ‘cull’ the whites often find themselves ostracized from the breeding community.

When my partner and I first decided that we would like a great dane, almost a year ago, we looked at rescues first.  One rescue had a question on their application “Would you take a deaf dane?”  We looked at each other and shrugged.  Why would it matter if the dog were deaf or not?  A dog is a dog.  It should be noted that my partner is an ASL interpreter student, but either way, it never occurred to us that a deaf animal would be any kind of problem.

We weren’t yet ready to take on a dog.  My partner was out of work and we simply couldn’t afford it.  Especially not a giant breed dog, not yet.  We kept an eye on craigslist and kijiji, just on a lark.  One day, on kijiji, we found an advertisement for a little girl named Frost.  My partner had just found a new job and Frost was the most adorable little dane puppy!  She was also, the ad said, deaf.  We immediately called up the breeder who had her and asked about her.

Frost had found a home already.  We were too late.  She went to a teacher of the deaf who wanted to train her as a therapy dog at a school for the deaf.  We were sad, but we obviously could never hope to compete with the quality of that home for this little girl.

The breeder is a breeder of Harlequin danes.  She had a litter due any day and she fully expected to have at least one deaf baby.  Would we, she asked, be interested in a different deaf baby?  Would we be willing to sit on a waiting list to see if one of her newest litter were born white?  She refused to cull her whites.  They were good puppies and they deserved homes.  Good homes.  Homes that wouldn’t treat them like they were disabled or in need of pity.  A deaf puppy will never know it is deaf.

How could we say no?  There we were, faced with the prospect of a beautiful puppy from good, healthy stock.  We said yes and we started refreshing her website every five minutes.

On December 25th or 26th, her front page changed.  There, on the front page, was mama dog and seven beautiful puppies.  1 mantle (black with a white collar and chest), 4 little Harlequins, 2 beautiful whites.  We jumped up and down with excitement.

A couple days later, her nursery page updated.  There were two little white boys who she was calling Alpine and Trent.  Oh, we wanted Alpine.  His back was pure white.  He had little black spots on his cheeks.  We didn’t know it, but he also had adorable black spots on his tail.  He was almost pure white and almost certainly deaf.  We started researching like mad.

I had previously known a deaf dog, but I had never had one of my own.  I knew they were trainable.  I knew they were friendly.  But, faced with the reality of actually having a deaf puppy, were we really up to the task?  There were so few resources out there for raising a deaf dog.  What was out there was limited, didn’t really document how they were trained and what day-to-day life was like with a deaf baby.  We consulted a few trainers and were gratified to find that many of the trainers in our area were willing to work with us.  This was different from the attitudes I had run into online, some of which stated that deaf animals were untrainable and vicious.

Yesterday, January 7, 2011, we heard back from the breeder.  Alpine and Trent were almost certainly deaf and were we still interested?  Our answer was an absolute yes.  We told her we were more interested in Alpine, with his little white back (Trent had some spots above his tail) and she said that was good because she thought she had a home for Trent.  We jumped up and down and squealed.  Alpine’s name was changed to Castiel and we embarked on our mission.

We are going to document the life and training of Castiel, our beautiful puppy so that others, going forward, will know that it’s okay to fall in love with a deaf dog and that they are perfectly trainable.

This is Castiel, named for an angel and this is his life, with us.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll document our preparations for his homecoming and then the real fun will start.

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Posted January 7, 2011 by thoenix in Deaf dogs, Fate, Preparing for a puppy

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5 responses to “Why undertake this adventure?

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  1. Wow guys this blog is wondeful! I am so grateful that there are people like you who are willing to take these pups and Thank you for being so honest about the phlight of us Breeders that keep these White Babies alive.
    I couldn’t have found a better home for Castiel and I am so excited for this blog. I have posted his blog link on my nursery page under his picture. I will continue to send you updates on him until he is ready to go home on February 19th 2011.

  2. Wow.
    I’m not a dog person, but I almost want to adopt a white dane now.

    I said “almost”

    • Well, if you don’t want a white dane, there are other white dogs and even some cats, that are born under a similar plight, if a different animal would suit you better.

  3. Wonderful story. We would love to feature Castiel’s story on our Deaf Dogs Rock Happy Tails section. If you are interested please email me an updated story with at least 2-4 good photos to christina@deafdogsrock.com

    I will also be adding a Blog section that will feature deaf dog blogs at the top of the page and regular dog blogs at the bottom of the page (lifewithdogs.tv, ect). If you are interested we can list your blog under the deaf dog blog section. Thanks and let me know soon. Christina and Nitro Lee – Deaf Dogs Rock

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