The Story of D.O.T.
In November 2008 we made a decision to do a breeding between two very incredible
dogs. Our choice was well educated & we knew full well that any merle to merle cross
had the potential to produce excessive white pups, deafness & sight problems. To us
the potential hard working ability & good conformation possible in this litter  
out-weighed the negative possibilities so we crossed our fingers & made the match
anyway.

On January 27, 2009 our 2nd litter was born to El Dorado's Towanjila. D.O.T. was the
1st to be born & was the only female. Needless to say we were expectant but mildly
disappointed. As the weeks wore on we continued to watch this little female trying to
decide our options & knowing that there was a good chance that she was bilaterally
deaf.

As a breeder it is difficult to look at the newborn life in front of you & to make an
executive decision whether one pup will have a better quality of life over another & with
Catahoulas among many other breeds deafness has the potential to lead to
aggression if the dog does not have the right temperament. In many cases these dogs
are euthanized rather than being allowed to become a liability. It is one of the most
difficult choices a responsible breeder has to make but there is a line that has to be
drawn when placing a puppy or dog in an appropriate home for both the safety of the
new owners & the life long well-being of the dog.

Fortunately D.O.T. had a wonderful personality. She was fearless & wasn't phased by sudden
movements or by being woke up unexpectedly. She reveled in our children's over animated
actions believing everything to be a game. She had an almost carelessness about her. She
climbed, balanced & leaped from everything she could find & with true Catahoula instinct she
bayed kittens, birds & pot bellied pigs. At 9 weeks old she could respond to physical
communication. She understands our "good dog" command & "come". She has also come to
understand our displeasure when she plays too rough & we have taught ourselves to treat her
as a mother dog treats a pup.  Her willingness to learn & desire to be a part of everything we
do overcame our concerns about how her disability would affect her ability to be placed in an
appropriate home. The question was finding such a home.

Until this time we had never owned or trained a deaf dog ourselves. We had read stories &
dealt with dogs with similar disabilities in outside situations & have owned unilateral hearing
dogs over the years but we had never experienced a dog like this ourselves. We talked to
trainers & show folk about the potential difficulties in training non- hearing dogs. Though the
prospects were not impossible our many concerns for D.O.T.'s future came flooding back in
waves.
One evening we sat for hours watching D.O.T. play with our children & her other siblings
& wondering what to do. We knew that there were good people out there that would love
her & give her everything she could possibly need but without having experienced life
with a deaf dog we didn't know how to guide someone through the trials & tribulations of
raising one. Owning a Catahoula was a challenge in itself but a deaf one? Who could we
ask to take on such a difficult task when we, ourselves, never had? For some reason this
little girl brought out a protective side of us we had yet to acknowledge & gradually we fell
deeply in love. Our final decicion...she would stay with us forever.     

It is sometimes necessary, as a breeder, to make a decision in order to preserve the
qualities of a breed. It's not always the breeding itself that makes a choice responsible or
not but how we choose to deal with the results of our choices. Many dogs with disabilities
can be placed in loving homes & are treasured for the rest of their days & yet there are
those that, despite a breeder's efforts, can not be placed for any number of reasons. It is
the breeder's responsibility to make the difficult choices, whatever those may be, so no
one else will have to.

We are not martyrs but we are self-proclaimed eternal students & we have found an
almost spiritual calling in this special little dog.  In working with D.O.T. we have began
delving into the world of training non-hearing dogs & with D.O.T. as our canvas & teacher
alike the sky is the limit. It is a surreal experience to absorb ourselves into her silent world
& create a language we can understand together.

D.O.T. can stand for "Destructive, Obnoxious Terrorist" or maybe it means "Deafness
Overcame Today" but it doesn't matter what we call her...she will never know her name;
yet she will always understand the smile on our faces when she looks up at us wagging
her tail.
In the Beginning...
Choices
Integrity
Check back as D.O.T. grows up to see her
accomplishments & learn along with us about life with a
non-hearing Catahoula. On this page we will post links &
other info for owners of deaf dogs to use for their own
purposes.
Last updated 08/13/12
Portrait by Sindi Short
Links

DDEAF
(Deaf Dog Education Fund)

ASL University
(American Sign Language Online)

Because D.O.T. is a non-hearing dog, she is oblivious to us when we call her name or ask her to do anything. Therefore we must teach
her how to pay attention to us so she can receive instructions. The command is "watch me." In ASL we have chosen to use the sign
for simply "
WATCH."

There are a couple of ways to achieve their attention:
With D.O.T. on a short leash, I tug gently until she looks at me. When her eyes are on my face I give the "watch" sign & then
give her a treat. I only do this 2 or 3 times in any one session but I do it at least 3 times a day to keep her motivated.
(remember she is only 9 weeks old at this point)
Another variation is to sit down at her level & get her attention with gentle tugs on the leash & with a treat in your mouth give
the "watch" sign. You can either let her take the treat from your mouth or you can spit it on the ground in front of her. (Her
attention will stay on your face longer if you allow her to take it from your mouth.)

When our 5-10 minute session is over I give her the sign for "
GOOD", offer her a treat & as I release her from the leash I sign
"
GO". This release will come in handy later. (We have chosen to make the sign for "good" without using the left hand so that it is not
confused with the sign for "stop").

Eventually I will increase the number of times per day that I practice this command with her until she understands the sign and her
responses become consistent. If you find additional methods that work don't be afraid to try them. The actual sign is not as important
as your consistency. Don't forget to end on a positive note & remember that your attitude during training is very, very important!

(
all sign links are from ASL University)
The Basics
WAKING THE DEAF DOG

Deaf dogs may become startled by sudden movements so we need to exercise a certain level of respect for D.O.T. when she is asleep.
When we want her to rouse we walk up and very softly begin to stroke her shoulder. Gradually we add a little more pressure until she
opens her eyes and looks at us. We make sure we smile and give her a good pet. Body language is everything!
D.O.T. has learned to her
favorite being fetch with an
empty water bottle.
Sheremarkably pleasant
with people & other spayed
and will continue to live out
her life here on the farm.