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The Specials: Adopting A Deaf and Blind Dog

As animal lovers, we love and cherish all our pets. But certain dogs (and cats) change us – they get under our skin, deep in our hearts, and our spirits are forever bound. Heart dogs enter our lives in unexpected and wonderful ways. Sometimes our time together is brief, but they shape our lives and lead us to places we never could have imagined. They live on in our hearts and we see the world differently, more vividly and clearly because of the bond we shared.

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Treasure, the deaf and blind dog, helps other blind and deaf merles find homes and get adopted
Treasure. Used with permission of Debbie Bauer.

Double Merle, Deaf and Blind Dogs

The summer after her high school graduation, Debbie worked in a local kennel. There was a deaf and blind collie named, Lady. The kennel staff provided her with food, water and shelter in an outdoor pen, but otherwise ignored her. Although Debbie had no prior experience with blind and deaf dogs, she was instantly drawn to Lady and they formed a deep bond. Debbie spent every moment she could with Lady, grooming her, teaching her tricks, and showering her with affection.

At the end of the summer, Debbie asked the kennel owner if she could purchase Lady. The kennel owner declined her offer, telling her that Lady would have surgery to make her eyes “look normal” and then be used for breeding. Debbie was heartbroken, but vowed to learn as much as she could to make a difference for other blind and deaf, double merles. She has kept her promise and gone on to write two books and now travels the country providing training, education and support for these special dogs. Because of her bond with Lady, she has devoted her life to changing hearts and minds and saving other blind and deaf dogs from suffering a similar sad fate.

Double merles, deaf and blind dogs make wonderful therapy dogs
Treasure, the therapy dog. Photo used with permission of Debbie Bauer.

Adopting deaf and blind dogs

Treasure is a ten-year-old, deaf and blind double merle* sheltie. She is also a semi-retired therapy dog, a READ Program Dog, and has her AKC Canine Good Citizen Certificate. Additionally, she has earned several expert trick dog titles, loves canine nose work, and travels around the country with Debbie providing training and education.

Debbie first discovered Treasure listed on Petfinder with a shelter in Missouri. Although she lived in Pennsylvania at the time, she contacted the shelter and offered to adopt her. Unfortunately, there was already an adoption in progress. Debbie was disappointed but happy Treasure had a home. A few months later, she saw the same dog listed for adoption with a rescue in Maryland. Knowing it was meant to be, she followed her heart and soon brought Treasure home. Treasure was adopted at age four and is now ten. She is quiet, calm, and takes everything in stride.

Vegas, the double merle, deaf and blind dog, encouraging adoption of deaf and blind dogs
Vegas. Photo used with permission of Debbie Bauer.

Debbie found Vegas through a Sheltie rescue group who arranged transport for him from Nebraska to Pennsylvania. Vegas is four years old and was born deaf and severely visually impaired. Debbie believes he sees some large shapes and movement close to him. Although reserved with new people, at home Vegas is a lover boy, always happy, dancing, and wagging his tail. Like Treasure, he also has his expert trick dog title.

Debbie’s newest family member is Vinny, a six-month-old, double merle collie, born completely deaf and blind. He came to Debbie through a local family who bred their two collies not realizing they were both merles. Two of the puppies in the litter were double merles. Vinny’s sister is blind, but can hear a little and was adopted by another local family. Debbie describes Vinny as a typical puppy; bouncy, playful, and mischievous. He is doing very well with tactile marker clicker training and loves learning new things.

Vinny, the double merle, deaf and blind puppy, is like any other puppy playful and mischievous
Vinny. Photo used with permission of Debbie Bauer.

Training and caring for deaf and blind dogs

Although safety is always her primary concern, Debbie strives for balance and tries not to be too cautious. While it is normal for humans to protect dogs who are different, it can also be damaging to create a sense of helplessness. Debbie believes in letting her dogs be dogs by creating a supportive environment that allows them to be independent yet still safe. In terms of training, she gives her dogs cues by touch with different locations on their bodies representing sit, come, stay, go for a walk, etc. Additionally, she uses scent cues for various places and experiences through conditioning and repeated exposure.

Dogs who are both deaf and blind respond to vibration, scent, and energy – the energy of our words, emotions and even expectations. Many dogs have strong bonds with their people, but with deaf and blind dogs that connection is even more intense. “They are incredibly tuned into me,” she says, “and sometimes it’s as if they read my mind.”

Five blind and deaf dogs and their adoptive family. Please consider adopting blind and deaf dogs
Family portrait. Photo used with permission of Debbie Bauer.

Debbie stresses that adopting a deaf and blind dog is a major commitment and should not be done without careful consideration and planning. Many dog lovers have wonderful intentions and want to save a dog that might not otherwise have a chance. While this is certainly noble, it is important to think long-term and make sure you are prepared for the special care that may be required.

For those who are ready and able to commit to adopting a specially-abled dog, Debbie says their love is like no other. “I can see and feel the love in Treasure’s face when she near is me. Losing yourself in a dog’s eyes is not dependent on the dog actually having eyes – it’s all about connecting soul to soul.”

When Debbie adopted Treasure, there were very few resources for training and living with blind and deaf dogs. Through her work as an educator, trainer, and author, she has helped change the perception of these dogs and impacted and saved hundreds of lives. For more information on her work with blind and deaf dogs, please check out her book Through A Dark Silence: Loving and Living With Your Blind and Deaf Dog. 

Adopting and training a double merle, deaf and blind dog

Vinny, Treasure, and Vegas are part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here. If you enjoyed this post, please see my posts on adopting deaf dogs and adopting a blind therapy dog.

*A double merle is created when two merle dogs are bred together. If two merle dogs are bred together, each puppy has a twenty-five percent chance of being double merle. Double merles have a high chance of being blind, deaf, or both. The following breeds carry the merle gene: Australian Shepherds, Border Collies, Cardigan Welsch Corgis, Chihuahuas, Cocker Spaniels, Collie (rough or smooth), Great Danes, Old English Sheepdogs, Pomeranians, Pyrenean Shepherds, and Shetland Sheepdogs. Sadly, many are killed at birth for being white. Many others end up in shelters or used as bait dogs in fighting rings when the buyer discovers they are blind, deaf, or both.


  1. Mark Muller
    November 14, 2016 / 7:46 am

    Thanks to Debbie… from the bottom of my heart. My tears started to run as I read the answer of that kennel owner… and it was so great that Debbie followed her heart and that she is there for this pups…

  2. Sketching with Dogs
    November 14, 2016 / 10:04 am

    How kind Debbie is to adopt blind and deaf dogs, she must make such a difference to their lives.What a disgusting person the owner of that kennel was, typical of the kind of person who should NEVER have a dog!Elliot and Cricket x

  3. Yamini MacLean
    November 14, 2016 / 11:24 am

    Hari OMOh my, this was fascinating from the genetics perspective, as well as the wonderful work of Debbie!!! YAM xx

  4. Cat Lady Alley
    November 14, 2016 / 3:17 pm

    This is so interesting! Using touch and scent cues seems so obvious, but something I've never thought about. It takes a special person to adopt a deaf AND blind dog. Debbie clearly found her calling and is a true hero. ~Rachel from Cat Lady Alley & Three Chatty Cats

  5. tubby3pug
    November 14, 2016 / 3:20 pm

    what a beautiful dog and what intersreting ways to communicate than you for sharing

  6. The Menagerie Mom
    November 14, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    Debbie and her furry crew are incredible. It is simply amazing what our furry companions are capable of, no matter their circumstances. And they can teach us so much. Many, many kudos to Debbie for never giving up, and for pursuing her dreams of giving these beautiful souls the lives they deserve. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story!

  7. Brian
    November 14, 2016 / 3:45 pm

    Hooray for Debbie and the wonderful heart she has. I do hope that kennel owner with Lady rots in hell.

  8. Two French Bulldogs
    November 14, 2016 / 3:48 pm

    Debbie is one special personLily & Edward

  9. 24 Paws of Love
    November 14, 2016 / 4:35 pm

    How fascinating! I have always been interested and drawn to deaf dogs. I don't know why but I would love to own one some day. I can just imagine the connection Debbie must have with her dogs. You don't need eyes to see a soul.Thank you so much for sharing this.

  10. Collie222
    November 14, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    We read her blog, and we are grateful that she is educating people about double dilutes.

  11. Madi and Mom
    November 14, 2016 / 6:06 pm

    What a beautiful story of love and devotion. Wow….thank you for sharing we were not familiar with Debbie or her book. We'll check it out.Hugs madi and mom!!

  12. Idaho PugRanch
    November 14, 2016 / 8:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing this story about another remarkable person and her wonderful dogs. It warms our hearts!hugsMr Bailey, Hazel & Mabel

  13. Saddle Seeks Horse
    November 14, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    This is beautiful. And to think my seeing and hearing Doberman failed CGC 3x. I am glad you are spotlighting this wonderful category of "specials."

  14. Frankie Furter and Ernie
    November 14, 2016 / 10:53 pm

    OMD OMD Miss Debbie is a SAINT…

  15. Molly and Mackie
    November 14, 2016 / 10:58 pm

    Bless Debbie for being the incredibly special angel that she is♥

  16. Denise Gruzensky
    November 14, 2016 / 11:05 pm

    Debbie is wonderful! She has taken her passion, rescued more and is helping with resources for others. I just purchased her book as Shasta is showing signs of hearing loss and had early signs of cataracts. Once again Kristin what a beautiful post shining light on our special needs fur friends! Thank you!

  17. The Island Cats
    November 14, 2016 / 11:16 pm

    Debbie is a special person. Paws up to her!

  18. Marg
    November 15, 2016 / 12:19 am

    We sure do thank Debbie for all her hard work with these dogs. I sure would like to get her book and will go purchase it. I do have a deaf cat and so know a tiny bit but to have one blind and deaf must be a real challenge. I sure would love to have a dog like that just to help some dog, but at the moment I have too many animals and can't afford any more. What a great story.

  19. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat
    November 15, 2016 / 1:17 am

    People like Debbie restore my faith in humanity. Thank you for sharing her story!

  20. Dory and the Mama
    November 15, 2016 / 1:27 am

    What a heart warming story of a very special lady and her beautiful dogs!!

  21. Cathy Keisha
    November 15, 2016 / 2:53 am

    I feel sorry for Lady because I know she was going to spend her life not being treated kindly. I dunno if I could have left her but I thank Debbie for finding a place in her heart for the others.

  22. M. K. Clinton
    November 15, 2016 / 5:13 am

    What a wonderful person to showcase today. ♥

  23. Emma
    November 15, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    We really applaud the people who handle deaf and blind dogs and even involve them in dog sports. They can lead very full lives but it is a huge commitment.

  24. Bobbi and Gracie
    November 15, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    I become speechless when I see the caring, selfless, beautiful people who step up to help these animals with special needs. What a wonderful family portrait… gorgeous, each one. Thanks for sharing this…

  25. Sweet William The Scot
    November 15, 2016 / 4:19 pm

    I read your post yesterday and wanted to read up on merles as I had always thought of it as a color and that is incorrect. It is more of a merle gene. So you only bred merle with a solid coat color dogs. I wonder what happened to Lady the one stuck into producing puppies, pray in the end it found a home with love. It is great that dogs have a sixth sense and can continue despite all loss of sight and hearing. Thanks for giving me new knowledge.Sweet William The Scot

  26. Nellie Kowalik
    November 16, 2016 / 3:35 am

    Wow! We had a merle mini aussie shepard (the hairy slobbery sister Bob). She had some vision issues and I later found out that 2 of her litter mates were "put down" for being double merles. I did not understand at the time. Your story put that into perspective for me as I never quite understood what the issue was! Thanks! Nellie's Mommy

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