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The Specials: Return of the Deaf Dogs

Adopting deaf dogs

Way back in December 2015 I wrote a post about two deaf dogs and one hearing dog – Chena, Yeti, and Moby. The post was so popular that it started The Specials, a blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as misunderstood breeds like black cats and pit bulls.

A lot has happened with the blog (and me) since then and it is all thanks to these three special dogs. Sadly, both Moby and Chena passed away in 2016. This post is dedicated to these beautiful gentle giants.

What you need to know about adopting deaf Great Dane puppies

Adopting Deaf Great Dane Puppies

The same week Chena passed away Arlo and Winnie were born in Florida. Out of a litter of ten Great Dane puppies, four were deaf. Word spread about the puppies in the deaf dog community and across social media. Cher wasn’t ready to adopt another deaf dog, but kept them in the back of her mind just in case.

But things quickly turned desperate and the owner wanted them gone within 24 hours. Deaf dogs often end up as bait dogs and giving them away for free pretty much sealed their fate. Not knowing what she would find or if she would arrive in time, Cher and a friend drove straight through the night from Chicago to Florida.

Saving and Adopting deaf Great Dane puppies

When they arrived Cher offered to take all four puppies, but the owner would only give her two. At eight weeks, Dane puppies should weigh about 20 pounds. Winnie only weighed 12 pounds. Not only were they malnourished, their bodies were covered with open sores and infested with multiple internal parasites that were literally sucking the life out of them.

Both dogs refused to eat and by the time they reached Nashville, Winnie started to crash. They found an emergency 24-hour clinic where Winnie underwent a blood transfusion. Thankfully she started to rebound a few hours later. Had they not stopped, she would not have made it home.

What you need to know about adopting deaf great dane puppies

Life With Deaf Dogs

One year later, Arlo and Winnie are healthy and happy and still growing! Arlo’s vision is also very limited, but he manages very well. They both passed their AKC puppy classes with flying colors. Cher would eventually like to have them certified as therapy dogs,  though she is still working on some reactivity with Arlo.

When Cher first adopted Yeti and Moby, she was told that deaf dogs were untrainable. One trainer even suggested euthanizing them. Both Yeti and Moby and now Arlo and Winnie know hand signals and have responded well to training (see their training in action in the video below). Cher says deaf dogs are much more in tune with their guardians and read body language very well – though a secure, fenced in yard is a must.

the joys of adopting a senior deaf dane

Yeti (from the original three) is nine and a half and still doing great! Those who read the original post, might remember that Yeti is a cancer survivor and suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that causes the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. He moves slowly and sometimes needs some assistance sitting down, but this guy is still such a love! He wasn’t thrilled with the pups arrival at first, but has gradually adjusted over the year.

Life with a senior deaf great dane

Co-Parenting Deaf Dogs

Cher shares custody of Yeti with her ex-boyfriend, Matt. They split all the costs including basic care, food, veterinary expenses, etc. Both Cher and Matt are now with other partners, but they have maintained a close friendship out of love for their dogs. Matt was even the one who first found the adoption listing for Arlo and Winnie. They are pretty amazing and a wonderful example of responsible adoption in action.

Yeti, Arlo, and Winnie were all born deaf and have no idea they are different. Want to see these three gentle giants in action?  Watch the video below. (video filmed and edited by Mini-Me AKA the little human in the family).

Please do not adopt an animal if you are unable or unwilling to provide a lifetime of loving and compassionate care. If you are ready for adoption, please consider fostering or adopting a pet with special needs because second chances are amazing whether you are on the giving or receiving side. For more information on adopting a deaf dog, please visit Deaf Dogs Rock.

Rescuing and adopting deaf puppies: the inspiring adoption story of Winnie and Arlo, two rescued deaf great dane puppies

Arlo, Winnie, and Yeti is 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


  1. Linda Szymoniak
    July 5, 2017 / 5:15 am

    I miss my deaf hound girl, Ran, so much. She was just five when she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, and despite more than three months and nearly $3k in vet bills, she had deteriorated so much I had no other option than do what was right for her. It's been over two years now, but it hurts as badly as it did the day she died. Ran was a special girl. People had no idea she was deaf unless I told them, and she never let it slow her down. I definitely want to adopt another deaf dog. Right now I'm looking for a young (preferably two years or less), female (I have two males and one female already, with the girl having been bonded with Ran), Treeing Walker Coonhound (mix or perhaps another Coonhound breed). No luck yet, but I know when the time is right, the right dog will come along. To anyone who has not loved a deaf dog (or blind dog or dog with other special need), you have no idea what you are missing. They are magical. If humans could adapt to disabilities as easily as animals do, we'd have a much better world.

    • Unknown
      July 6, 2017 / 1:08 am

      Linda, I remember how special your Ran was from the deaf dog group on yahoo. I know you are one of the best ambassadors for how magical our deaf dogs are– and I am certain when the right dog finds you next, they will win the puppy lottery!!Cher

  2. Mark Muller
    July 5, 2017 / 6:07 am

    I so agree with you… Phenny has a deaf friend, it's a french bulldog and we are always surprised and impressed how this little lady can master her life… and it is so sweet how they play together…Phenny "knows" somehow that she is a special dog, he always gets in front of her like a "stopper" when she comes too close to the water or in when she runs too far away from her owner …

  3. Yamini MacLean
    July 5, 2017 / 10:22 am

    Hari OMI remember that post… and this extension of the love and patience is heart-warming to read! (Love your 'movie' production too!!!) YAM xx

  4. Emma
    July 5, 2017 / 10:44 am

    What wonderful people to take on those two puppies. Strange the guy wouldn't let her have all four of them! Hope the ones she has continues to do well.

  5. Molly the AireGirl
    July 5, 2017 / 12:43 pm

    We just happen to think that all dogs are trainable. It just takes patience and love and this post proves it. We are so happy for the pups☺

  6. Amy Hempe
    July 5, 2017 / 12:46 pm

    I am very interested in learning their progress. This is a wonderful element of the rescue community, and I'd love to learn more about it. Thank you so much for all you do.

  7. Edie ThePug
    July 5, 2017 / 12:58 pm

    What an amazing and inspirational story. Hats off to Cher for taking in and caring for these beautiful animals.

  8. Madi and Mom
    July 5, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    What a beautiful repost and surely deserving of several more to remind us all about 'specials'! Hugs madi and mom

  9. AmyShojai
    July 5, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Wow, what a great story and tribute to going the extra mile–and being rewarded in lots of loving puppy kisses! My heart breaks for the other pups from that litter. Hoping they do NOT repeat a breeding, and produce more pups they can't care for/place. There aren't enough homes like these wonderful people. I love your "specials" concept!

  10. Bouncing Bertie
    July 5, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    Love the video of Yeti, Arlo and Winnie. Hamish the Westie went deaf in old age (it was hard to pinpoint the exact moment when selective deafness turned into real deafness). I did try training him with hand signals, but without much success. The important thing I learned was not to touch him with having made sure he'd seen me first. Well done to Cher and to all those loving owners of deaf dogs. Cheers, Gail.

  11. ♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥
    July 5, 2017 / 6:05 pm

    Another wonderful post about the Specials. We never had a deaf dog, just one with only one ear:) But Mom always remembers her first visit to the vet with our first Siberian, Angel Dakota. The vet asked Mom if she noticed any problem with Dakota's hearing as it is not uncommon for all white dogs with blue eyes to be born deaf or with little hearing. Thankfully Dakota had no problem although Mom says she did suffer from selective hearing (as we all do too).Woos – Lightning and Misty

  12. Sweet Purrfections
    July 5, 2017 / 7:14 pm

    What special people to adopt special needs dogs and to continue giving them special care even after they weren't together anymore and with other partners. The video of Yeti, Arlo, and Winnie was wonderful. I've seen programs on TV of people using hand signals with dogs.

  13. Bella Roxy & Macdui
    July 5, 2017 / 8:20 pm

    SHE reckons we're deaf about half the time, so SHE could easily adopt one. Actually, we respond to hand signals…if we respond, so deafness wouldn't be a problem. A great story!

  14. Cathi Bert-Roussel
    July 5, 2017 / 8:27 pm

    My first rescue dogs, Winston and Julius were special needs (elderly, blind and deaf). I didn't expect them to live as long as they did but they were with us for five years before they passed on. They were the best dogs. And they never let their ailments hold them back. They were the best dogs!

  15. Dash Kitten
    July 5, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    We tend to look for the cat most in need, be it a deaf one, a limping one or a seriously in need rescue.You don't need to be a special person to adopt special needs pets – you just need 100% love – 100% commitment to their care and totaly belief that what you do matters.These dogs are amazing, and I bet they are something special to meet!

  16. 24 Paws of Love
    July 5, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    When the time is right I want to adopt a deaf dog. They have always fascinated me and I feel drawn to them for some reason. Thank you for sharing this story, it was beautiful and I always wanted a Dane. 🙂

  17. Idaho PugRanch
    July 5, 2017 / 10:09 pm

    What a great story and video! Wonderful dogs, so glad she saved themhugsHazel & Mabel

  18. Lola The Rescued Cat
    July 5, 2017 / 11:54 pm

    I just love this series! I'm so glad Arlo and Winnie were rescued and found so much love in their lives. Cher is an angel.

  19. Kamira G
    July 6, 2017 / 12:11 am

    Sorry for your loss last year. Seeing Yeti, Arlo, and Winnie in action is great. I've never seen a Great Dane other than in films before. They really look like gentle giants and so loveable. See this post and reading other bloggers experience with special needs pets has educated me and opened my mind up to the possibility of adopting a special needs animal in the future. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Raising Your Pets Naturally with Tonya Wilhelm
    July 6, 2017 / 12:18 am

    So sorry for your loss. What a great tribute. I've never been owned by a deaf dog, but I have a lot of dog training clients that have deaf dogs. They really aren't too much different than a hearing dog, definitely not to dump them. 🙁 Glad they all found their right homes.

  21. Brian
    July 6, 2017 / 12:22 am

    That was a wonderful post about some truly wonderful dogs. The two dogs that lived here were deaf so we understand.

  22. Hailey and Zaphod and their Lady
    July 6, 2017 / 12:24 am

    So thrilled that Cher was able to save these 2 angels.

  23. TheGirlWhoFacedTheWorld
    July 6, 2017 / 2:39 am

    Amazing, beautiful photos and even more beautiful story. <3 So glad she rescued them. They are GORGEOUS dogs with great hearts.

  24. Sadie and Co.
    July 6, 2017 / 2:48 am

    OMG That makes me so angry to know that deaf puppies are used as bait and that a trainer suggested euthanizing them! I'm so glad Cher took the dogs and wish the owner would have let her take all four.

  25. meowmeowmans
    July 6, 2017 / 2:52 am

    Cher rocks! This story is beautiful. We are so glad she rescued Yeti, Arlo and Winnie.

  26. Tenacious Little Terrier
    July 6, 2017 / 3:41 am

    The deaf dog rescue group has a booth at the pet expo and it's fun watching them do tricks using hand signals. The dogs show off that they can learn too!

  27. Heather Wallace
    July 6, 2017 / 11:26 am

    I love this series! More people should celebrate what makes us and others different of "special". I cannot believe there are people that say that deaf dogs are not trainable. This makes me so angry. You just have to get creative and spend a little extra time.

  28. ShaylaS11
    July 6, 2017 / 3:29 pm

    This is so sweet! I love that they are putting so much love and care into these beautiful babies! I have worked with deaf Danes in the past, and loved every minute of it! What a beautiful story!

  29. Beth Patterson
    July 6, 2017 / 4:25 pm

    I am glad for these puppies, but I can't but help and wonder what happened to their litter mates. I really don't understand how someone could allow the puppies to become sick. When I was a kid I was told that white Boxer puppies were born deaf and were usually put down right away. I was always struck by how unfair that was, and I'm glad that deaf dogs have wonderful advocates now.

  30. FiveSibesMom
    July 6, 2017 / 8:58 pm

    These babies are beautiful. I loved seeing the video! I'm so happy for them now! One of my Huskies is partially deaf, and my older girl, has gone deaf after bouts of ear infections. I started working signs with them both, and it certainly helps. I love them so. What a wonderful story. Thank you!

  31. Lori Hilliard
    July 7, 2017 / 2:18 pm

    It takes compassion and patience to care for a deaf dog, but the rewards are great! While I've never raised a deaf dog, your video gave me some great ideas for communicating with my 18 year old dog, who went deaf last year and is still adjusting.

  32. Momma Kat and Her Bear Cat
    July 7, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    We humans still have a lot to learn 🙂

  33. Christina
    July 8, 2017 / 2:27 pm

    Any trainer who says deaf dogs can not be trained is uneducated and needs to go back to school. All four of my deaf dogs have excelled in all their training classes with ease. Thanks for mentioning our organization Deaf Dogs Rock. We are here to advocate, educate, eradicate discrimination against deaf dogs, and show the world how much deaf dogs rock by sharing training resources, happy tails stories, listing deaf dogs available for adoption and sponsoring deaf dogs and puppies out of kill shelters into the safe harbors of our rescue partners. We get a lot of requests to help deaf and deaf blind puppies so we raise as much money as we can to help each puppy. Every dog hearing or deaf takes a huge commitment of patience, love, and a commitment to socialization and training. Thanks so much for bringing awareness to such am important topic. If you could see my email inbox and how many deaf dogs need help, you would be shocked to how many are born every single day.

  34. Three Chatty Cats
    July 9, 2017 / 5:35 pm

    Such beauties! And a wonderful post. I didn't know you blog back then, but I'm so glad to have found it! Btw, our senior dog is going deaf. It hasn't affected him one bit!

  35. Cathy Armato
    July 10, 2017 / 2:30 pm

    This is such an incredible post Kristen! I love your Specials series, every story is amazing. Cher must be a really special person to go to such great lengths to rescue these beautiful dogs. I love the video too!Love & Biscuits,Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  36. Groovy Goldendoodles
    July 20, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    What a wonderful story. Thanks so much for calling.

  37. Astro
    October 14, 2017 / 8:59 pm

    We love this sweet story.xo Astro

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