Dogs were all discarded, some because they weren’t ‘perfect.’
Published October 19, 2022 08:00AM EDT
There was running, playing, leaping, and lots of tail wagging. Occasionally someone bumped into a fence or stumbled over a friend, but that’s to be expected at a party with more than 30 pups, many of which are blind, deaf, or both.
It was a get-together last weekend in metro Atlanta for dogs who had been adopted in the South from Speak! Rescue and Sanctuary, a group that focuses on special needs dogs. Many of the canine attendees were my former foster puppies and they came from six states. About two-thirds of them were blind, deaf, blind and deaf, or had light sensitivity. These special needs pups in particular, but all the dogs there, were unwanted and often abandoned.
Speak took them in, knowing that they were all perfect.
Sniffing and Tail Wagging
Attie, who is deaf.
As each dog arrived, they sniffed the air in excitement. Many didn’t have the best vision or hearing, but their noses worked spectacularly. Some were eager to join the action, immediately making new friends and taking off for games of chase and tag. Others were a little more hesitant and stuck to their people. Eventually, almost everyone took part in the adventure.
Agile border collies and Australian shepherds scrambled up and over agility equipment, showing off their athletic skills. There were several curly doodles that romped and played, and some pups just went person to person, working on gathering cuddles and hopefully treats.
Aussiedoodle Roo is blind.
A few siblings were reunited for the first time. Aussiedoodles Roo and Moon immediately began playing and running around, picking up where they left off months ago.
Playful Rocky, who can see and hear, galloped around joyfully. When he joined Roo, who is blind, and Moon, who is deaf, he visibly changed his style of play, making smaller, less exuberant circles with them.
Rocky ran around joyfully.
The Treehugger polar bear puppies were there. Asher (formerly Kuruk), Bernard, and Attie get together often for playdates, so it was another fun family day for them.
Blind and deaf Aster Rose and her sister Kona, who is deaf, posed for photos for their reunion, but they weren’t so sure they remembered each other. Kona is quite the social, happy girl and needed to make sure she played with all her new friends. Lovely and sweet Aster was more shy than her sister, but still seemed to enjoy the day and the attention.
Unwanted and Sometimes Abandoned
Kona, who is deaf, posed with her sister, Aster Rose, who is blind and deaf.
Many of the dogs at the party were double merle Australian shepherd mixes. Merle is a colorful, splotchy pattern that can be found in a dog’s coat. When two dogs with a merle gene are bred together, their puppies have a one in four chance of being mostly white, as well as blind, deaf, or both.
Sometimes this breeding happens by accident. Sometimes disreputable breeders do it in hopes of getting merle puppies, which can be very popular and more expensive. When they get unwanted puppies that have special needs, they’re often dropped off at a shelter or taken to a vet to be euthanized.
Fortunately, Speak has saved so many of them.
Siblings Truvy and Zane were dropped off by a breeder at a rural shelter in Illinois because they are both blind and deaf. When the overwhelmed shelter employee asked what would happen if the facility couldn’t take them, the breeder said that coyotes can always use a meal.
Now they have the most incredible lives. Truvy has two BFF kitty friends and goes with her loving mom on lots of great adventures. Zane has a dog buddy who puts up with all his antics and two patient and kind parents.
Mary Jo with Galen, who is blind.
Galen is my original Speak dog (my “OG,” his parents say). He was the fluffiest, sweetest puppy who happened to be blind. He quickly learned how to map the yard so he wouldn’t run into trees or the fence. His parents loved him so much that they got him a brother. Handsome Louie is deaf. They look out for each other. Galen hears for Louie and Louie sees for Galen. What a perfect pair.
There were puppies there, of course. Border collie Hawk almost became a permanent resident of our household. It’s called a “foster fail” when a foster decided to adopt their canine charge and we came really close. But then came Charlotte, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel who couldn’t walk. Charlotte came to us for surgery and recovery and so Hawk found his people.
I was thrilled when Hawk ran up to join me as I gave a little bit of a thank you speech. And the true highlights were when the pups greeted me and seemed to remember our time together.
Hard, but Fulfilling
Happy Trixie, who is deaf.
Fostering is ridiculously fulfilling, but also so hard. It can be heartbreaking to say goodbye to your temporary furry family member, but it’s so gratifying when you see them happy and so loved with their forever families, particularly those willing to open their hearts to pups with special needs.
“It’s easy to think that rescuing a special needs pup is all about the pup,” says Annette Moore, who is Truvy’s mom. “Obviously, that is a very large piece, but I’d encourage people to see that these pups are very capable and what they bring to their families is often so much more than what the families bring to the pups. Imagine a bundle of love, built-in inspiration, and an instant dose of ‘we gotta get up and go’ rolled into one cute and fluffy being.”
Follow Mary Jo, her dog Brodie, and their foster puppy adventures on Instagram @brodiebestboy.
Why This Matters to Treehugger
At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their well-being. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.