By Janet McAfee
Rod Murphy was not thinking about getting another dog during the summer of 2014. His beloved dog, Sophia, recently passed away after a bout with cancer. An ardent dog lover, Rod serves on the Board of Directors for Loving All Animals and is actively involved in helping homeless pets.
Rod recalls, “Kim Hardee and Lindi Biggi approached me about fostering a four-month-old German Shepherd puppy. Kim rescued the dog wandering in the streets of Thousand Palms. I told them I was going out of town, but when I set eyes on the puppy it broke my heart. She had almost no hair on her body due to the extreme Mange she was suffering from, and her skin was covered with oozing sores from this infestation.” In addition, the puppy had a “head twitch” and a poor equilibrium which caused her to stagger. Loving All Animals agreed to sponsor the foster dog and pay her vet bills.
Rod explains, “We took the puppy to Country Club Animal Clinic where Dr. Lillian Roberts and her knowledgeable staff became Sunshine’s veterinary team. For a couple of months, I took her to see Dr. Roberts for observation, medication, and special medical shampoo. The mange infestation was cured. Over time, her equilibrium and head twitch improved, though she’s not 100%. I quickly realized she could not hear, and Dr. Roberts brought in a specialist to evaluate her hearing. We learned she has a 90% hearing loss.”
Dr. Roberts recalls, “Sunshine had one of the worst cases of Demodectic Mange I’ve ever seen. This condition can be hard to control, and the secondary infections really complicate it. I presume her deafness is in fact related to a neurological problem, perhaps a congenital malformation of the part of her ear we can’t see, but I don’t have any way to know for sure.”
No one was surprised when Rod fell in love and adopted the dog he named Sunshine. He explains how he communicates with the dog who cannot hear his voice. “I worked out some hand signals to communicate with Sunshine. When she barks, thinking an unknown intruder might be approaching our property, she recognizes a particular hand signal from me letting her know all is okay and she is a ‘good dog’. She is very intelligent, and is presently working with a library of about a dozen hand signals. Sunshine goes everywhere with me, including to work.” If Sunshine gets a few steps ahead of him, she responds to Rod’s sharply clapping his hands and will turn to look at him for the next command.
Deaf dogs like Sunshine get along better in the world than one might think. Dogs view the world differently than humans and communicate with their environment in the following order, (1) Smelling, (2) Seeing, and (3) Hearing. In humans, this order is reversed. Once a dog loses his hearing, his ability to see and smell becomes more enhanced. Some deaf dogs have learned dozens of commands through American Sign Language.
A deaf dog, or any other animal with a disability, should never be pitied. Dogs don’t dwell on their condition or what they don’t have. They live in the moment, focusing on what is happening NOW in their world. Dogs have a sense that humans often lack, the ability to read people’s energy and emotions. They need to feel your confidence, happiness and strength in order to respond to you as their pack leader.
Today, Rod and his beautiful German Shepherd Sunshine are inseparable. Their loving bond is captured in Stacy Jacob’s wonderful photograph. Rod and Sunshine are spreading the message that deaf dogs are very capable of doing almost everything any other dog can do, including bestowing lots of love on their humans. Deaf dogs are just like hearing dogs, only deaf dogs hear through their hearts.
Contact Country Club Animal Clinic at (760) 776-7555. To adopt or foster a rescue dog, contact Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 or www.lovingallanimals.org.