Yesterday, I was playing on Twitter when the following tweet popped up:
@Izi_Garcia Yes! I have a deaf dalmation, she’s 14 years old now. What kind of dog do you have?
— Steph (@ShunterNi) September 23, 2015
Question? Answer. 2015, you continue to blow my mind. Sounds simple, right?
Let me tell you a story.
In December 2001, my family took in a stray puppy. She was a sweet brown Dalmatian, small and energetic and so adorable. We called her Zoe, and we called her often. Yet after three days, our obviously-clever dog still wouldn’t respond to her new name. Suspecting she might be deaf, we took her to the vet for advice. What did he say?
“You should put her down now. She’ll only become viscious. It’s a million-dollar lawsuit waiting to happen.”
My mother stormed out of the vet, never to return to that clinic again, and Zoe has been with us ever since, but as for how to train her and take care of her, we were on our own. We didn’t have a way to find resources; we didn’t know how to use search engines, or find chat rooms, and the website for the Kennel Club said the same thing. Destroy the dog, she’s defective, she’ll only contribute to the deaf gene pool, turn nasty, become a liability.
It turned out not to be much more arduous than training a hearing dog, and has some surprising advantages. Thunder doesn’t bother her, nor does the vacuum cleaner. We stomp the floor to get her attention, and wiggle our fingers to show approval. She can do eight tricks, and was no more difficult to house-train than a hearing dog. And she is still sweet.
Which brings me back to social media.
When we trained Zoe, we went at it alone. We made up hand signals: a nodding fist for ‘sit,’ fingers in a gun for ‘play dead,’ a twirling finger for ‘roll over.’ There is an international guide to this sort of thing, but we hadn’t a clue it existed. We didn’t know that there are whole websites dedicated to training deaf dogs. We were alone, but we had Zoe, and we were determined.
Fast-forward to 2015. @Izi_Garcia posted a quick question, and within minutes of figuring out that his dog is deaf, he was learning how to effectively train his puppy. His worries were laid to rest as the information, assurances, and jokes flooded in. Sure, he can visit the Kennel Club’s site and read the same thing we did–deaf dogs are the end of the world–but that’s only one of many options. But most importantly, he can understand that he’s not alone. There are other deaf dogs, and they are good and bad and silly and cute and everything in-between. His puppy will be okay.
And that’s really what social media is all about: people connecting. It’s often said by media outlets and grousing uncles alike that it drives us apart, but I have to wonder if the same people who say that aren’t just part of the wrong community. In my view, sites like Twitter can bring us together in ways we didn’t even know we needed. They can help us form new friendships, meet interesting people.
They can help a deaf puppy settle into his new home. And that, my darlings, is pretty frikkin’ cool.