Adopted from I Heart Dogs Rescue and Animal Haven in Warren Michigan, Taylor brought her new puppy Hilda home at just 10 weeks old. “The rescue described her as sassy, but we don’t think they knew she was deaf” Taylor says. After two days, Hilda’s family knew there was more to her story. “She didn’t react to squeaky toys, our neighbor’s dog barking at her from behind, or our playful voices calling her. After we put all the pieces together we tested it with snapping fingers behind her ear and trying to yell while she slept, no response, we then came to the conclusion she was deaf.”
Hilda’s family was not deterred by her disability. Rather, this was new information to shape their training strategies. Hilda has learned hand signals for commands, and her parents use a vibrating collar for recall. The vibrating collar is their favorite method of accommodation for Hilda; since they are unable to call Hilda back from a distance, the vibrating collar helps get her attention, which can be a challenge as Hilda is still a young puppy. “We really need to get her focus and keep it for us to be able to do any commands. As she is still a puppy, that can be difficult sometimes since her attention span is still pretty short.”
When asked what she wishes other people would know about dogs with disabilities, Taylor said it’s more about changing our perspective and keeping bias in check.
“I don’t think dogs know they are disabled, so people should know that the pet should not be pitied or treated significantly differently. They still have their breed's characteristics and personalities, in our case very energetic and loving, and that doesn’t just stop from having a disability. They still need to be exercised or given jobs, and they can do everything a “normal” dog can do with enough time and commitment.” She also said this journey has taught them that communication is so much more than words, that body language is also important. Taylor has shared that she has found some benefits from having a deaf dog! “ She does not bark when people knock on the door or another dog barks, and is not afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks!”
You can find Hilda over on Instagram at @hilda_and_maeve.