What you need to know (but can't see) about Gracie

July 01, 2015

Gracie deaf Dalmatian

Meet Gracie. She’s a 9 year old liver spotted Dalmatian. LOVES treats ... has gorgeous brown eyes ... and gets super excited about saying hello.

I feel like she needs a proper introduction because she sometimes doesn’t come across well to new people. Had a bit of a rocky start in our house as well, as we didn’t know the whole story about her past.

Gracie has come to stay with us for the short term ... or maybe longer ... and in 9 short days has taught us more than we thought was possible about patience, human kindness and dog language.

We picked up Gracie last weekend from another family who was finding it difficult to manage with 6 dogs in a small space that were always fighting. Gracie was the victim of a bite that drew blood, and they decided that she needed another home.

From day one in our house, piecing together snippets from her past, the trainer and the vet ... her story has gradually unfolded. We are learning more each day about her medical issues, which currently include:

  • She has had a stroke or some level of brain trauma – resulting in head tilt, confusion and regular trances
  • Urinary incontinence – with medication needed every day (and accidents if we don’t do midnight walks)
  • Depression – no great surprise given everything she’s been through
  • Possible problems with her liver difficulty absorbing the nutrients from food
  • A 90 degree kink in her tail (cute to us ... but not a beauty trait in Dalmatians)

The issue that changed things completely though was discovering that she was deaf. This was probably not known by her previous owners, who thought she was just badly behaved.

On top of this – or perhaps because of it – she has never been properly trained. She doesn’t come when she’s called or respond to ANY commands. Well, you wouldn’t would you ... if you couldn’t hear them? And she is going through a huge change from a difficult doggie house to a house full of crazy laughs and busy kids. A pretty tough hill to climb for any dog.

I don’t know if Gracie will settle with us. Only time will tell. But I have thought long and hard about how to best look after her, how to teach her some basic sign language for “sit” and “away”, and how to keep her safe when she is out and about. It is often said that a deaf dog needs to always stay on its leash, as she will not come back when called. But what would happen to her if she accidentally got loose and was scared and frightened in a strange neighbourhood?

Although My Bugle is focussed on people ... I wanted to think through how I could best help Gracie. It doesn't really matter if you're a human or a dog when you need help. She needed an ID tag, and I needed to weigh up what was most important to get across in an emergency. Despite her complex health issues, I feel that the most important thing for people to know is that she can’t hear. There’s no point shouting at her to get her to move ... or leave ... or go home ... both parties will just become confused and upset. And that could lead to an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

She just needs a bit of understanding and help to get back safely to her family. So I’ve made her a special tag to help get this across, with all of our phone numbers on the back. 

Gracie's tag - deaf dog

Wish us luck with the training, and we'll see if she settles. In the meantime, I feel better knowing that we've helped smooth her journey a little. Sleep well and dream of cheese tidbits Gracie...



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