Ci-Gwyn Gwydion ARPH 1060 CGC

My wonderful boy! His "fancy" registered name is listed above. Being registered doesn't make him any better (or worse) than other dogs, it just means that someone looked at his pictures and agreed that he looks like an Aussie.

Happy, Healthy, Active, Intelligent Dog
whose ears don't work
Gwydion jumping

Gwydion has been with me since May 24, 1997 (the best birthday gift I've ever gotten!) I had told my husband for years that the first thing we were doing when we bought a house was to get a dog. We moved in December of '96, just before Xmas (not something I would recommend). In January, Mark asked me when we were going to get that dog. So I wrote to ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) and asked for some info on breeders and whatnot. As part of the info packet sent to me, there was a little pamphlet on ARPH (Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline). I thought that was a great idea, since I could get my favorite breed of dog and one that really needed a home too. So I called.

The local rep said that she didn't have any dogs available right then, but she could forward my application. It ended up in Pennsylvania, and Micki called me (after filling out all the paperwork and being approved) to tell me about three dogs that might work for us. The first two sounded like nice dogs, but not quite what I was looking for. When she told me about the third, he sounded just perfect. And then she said that he was deaf. I'd never heard of such a thing, so she told me what she had learned about caring for a deaf dog, and said that she would send pictures. I got off the phone and called my husband and he said, what's the difference, the cats don't listen anyway. My daughter thought it sounded like a cool idea. I called a local obedience instructor, who said that she had worked with deaf dogs before and he would be fine in her class. I talked to another person who has "not-quite-perfect" pets, and she said deafness was not that big of a deal. So we decided to take him, and met Micki in Eastern Ohio to bring him home. (Gwydion also grins.)

First Ribbons
Second & First

Gwydion is a dear wonderful dog and loves company. He only has one major problem, and we have had very good luck working on it. When I took Gwydion to his first obedience class, he was awful. He would bark and lunge at the other dogs and just created such a fuss that I ended up working with him out in the hall so that he could concentrate and not disturb the other dogs. We have spent a lot of time working on this. We started working with lots of praise and treats, and found out that he was OK one-on-one or in small groups. He also was much better off-lead. I believe (although I will never know for sure) that he probably received little to no socialization as a puppy (which can be a big problem with any breed of dog, but is especially bad in Aussies). After Gwen came to live with us (see next page!), I decided to take him with us to the dog park one day, and he did great! So we enrolled in a CGC (Canine Good Citizen) class. As you can see above, he passed on April 6, 2000, and I couldn't be more proud.

After Gwydion received his CGC, I decided to keep working on his Obedience training. We go to class one night a week, and practice all the stuff that everyone else does. I am hoping to earn his U-CD (United Kennel Club Companion Dog) title. Whether or not we go further than that will depend on how well we do (but I would like to do more). We entered our first show (as sub-novice, doesn't count toward titles), in March of 2001. He did quite well! On the first day, he decided to lie down during the sit-stay (at the last possible moment! His elbows hit the floor just as the judge said to return), so he ended up with second place. On the second day, I thought "sit-stay-sit-stay-sit-stay" at him just as hard as I could! He did think about lying down (I could tell), but he decided to sit instead, and ended up with a beautiful first place ribbon!

We have since entered a few real Obedience trials, with some problems, and a wonderful success. Gwydion still gets stressed in a strange environment with unknown dogs around him (especially large, young, male dogs). At some shows, he is so distracted that he is just not "with" me in the ring (and my being nervous definitely does not help). We are continuing to work on it. But we have had 1 big success! He placed third at a trial (OK, so it was out of 3 dogs), and got a passing score of 188 1/2 (perfect is 200, just barely passing is 170). So we have 1 leg toward his title (we need 2 more), and we will just keep working on it!

So what IS it like to have a deaf dog?

It does take a little adjusting to live with a deaf dog. Gwydion wears a bell so that I will have an easier time finding him. You have to go to him when he's barking at something he shouldn't (instead of just telling him to quiet down). You need to be a bit more safety conscious (but too many people let their hearing dogs run, thinking that they "know" to stay out of the street and away from other dangerous things). But just because he's deaf doesn't mean that he's dumb! The first few words (well, okay, "hand signs" - like deaf people use) were hard, but once he figured out that I was trying to communicate with him, that wonderful, bored, under-used brain just bloomed. Gwydion knows about 60 words. Part of these are obedience commands (like sit, down and stay), some are practical words (like walk, car, and names), and a lot are tricks (like roll over, jump, and spin) He also knows a lot of body language cues (like smiles and frowns). Most people who meet him don't even suspect that he is deaf, he minds me better than a lot of the hearing dogs out there.

Gwydion velcroed to Jess, even with asleep
Gwydion nestled up to Jessie's back

Double-merle Aussies are not the only dogs that can be deaf. Sometimes, "normal" Aussies will be deaf because they simply have too much white on their heads (around their ears specifically). Dalmatians are a breed particularly known for deafness (approximately 12% of all the Dals born are deaf in at least one ear). Other heavily affected breeds include Border Collies, white Boxers & Bull dogs, Great Danes, English Setters, Australian Cattle Dogs, Dogo Argentinos, American Staffordshire terriers (and American Pit Bull terriers), Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Cocker and other Spaniels, and Jack Russell Terriers. There are many other breeds that have this problem as well, just not in as large numbers. And any dog can become deaf due to sickness or old age.

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