A lot of rescue dogs are misunderstood, some more often than others. Acorn, the beautiful white Pit Bull, was already having a hard time getting adopted because of his breed. But on top of his appearance, he was also a troublemaker.
Both at the shelter and in a foster home, Acorn wouldn’t listen to human commands. It frustrated all the people trying to help him until one woman realized there was more to the story. She learned that Acorn wasn’t refusing to listen – he couldn’t listen! Poor Acorn was born deaf, and no one knew, so now he’s advocating for deaf dogs like him.
Rambunctious Shelter Dog
The American Staffordshire Terrier was taken in by Cleveland Animal Care and Control (also known as City Dogs Cleveland) after he was found wandering the streets. Like most dogs, he didn’t handle shelter life well, and he became one of the biggest troublemakers at the organization. With only a small space to explore, he got bored quickly, but he found unique ways to entertain himself.
“They would fill up his water bowl and he would wait for someone to walk by and he would pick it up and swing the water on them. And then he would bang his stainless steel water bowl against the kennel walls, which were concrete, 24/7,” said Mary Motley, a longtime volunteer.
Acorn’s antics drove the shelter staff and other dogs crazy. So, the shelter’s manager reached out to Motley to ask if she’d be willing to get him out of the shelter for a night to help Acorn calm down and give everyone else a break.
At first, Motley was excited to have a temporary foster puppy, but her attitude quickly changed. Acorn acted out in Motley’s home just like he had at the shelter, and he wouldn’t listen to a word she said.
It’s All a Misunderstanding
Motley wanted to return Acorn to the shelter almost immediately, but she knew she should at least follow through with one night. It was difficult because Acorn chewed up everything, including a seat belt, air horn, and comforter.
“He gets in the house, he’s knocking things over. He’s crazy. I’m screaming at him,” Motley said. “I’m trying to catch him and I can’t catch him and he won’t stop no matter what. I yell at him, he won’t stop. So finally wears himself out. I put him in the crate and I’m thinking, ‘You’re going back to the kennel at 8 o’clock in the morning because I can’t deal with this.’”
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But when Motley went to let him out of his crate, she noticed something peculiar. The pup didn’t react when Motley entered the room or opened the crate. He didn’t acknowledge her until she touched his shoulder. So, Motley realized that Acorn wasn’t ignoring her on purpose. He probably couldn’t hear her at all!
Motley took him to the vet, and the staff members confirmed that Acorn is deaf. Suddenly, Motley’s perspective of Acorn changed, and she decided to help train him.
Acorn Stops Being a Troublemaker
Motley worked with Carol Peter, the founder of Cold Nose Companions Dog Training, to train Acorn. Acorn attended the “teenage terrors” class. He was a handful at first, but he learned quickly now that he was trained with hand signals instead of sounds.
“A deaf dog is really not very different than a hearing dog. You just talk with your hands instead of your mouth. And I still talk with my mouth with him, too,” Motley said.
Some aspects of training a deaf dog are easier than training a hearing dog. For example, Acorn never got distracted by sounds, such as dogs barking and cars driving by. Motley used a series of signs to teach Acorn basic commands. Some signs are used by the American Kennel Club while others were made up by Motley and Peter.
Now, Acorn recognizes over 30 signs. All the signs are easy enough to do on one hand so they can be completed while holding a leash. Motley has shared the signs with other families to help advocate for deaf dogs to reduce their risk of euthanasia. After lots of training with Acorn, Motley adopted him.
Give Dogs Like Acorn a Chance!
Sadly, deaf dogs like Acorn are often misinterpreted. Their hearing loss is sometimes unnoticed, so people mistake them for being aggressive or not smart even though they can be trained with the right methods. Many wonderful deaf dogs are euthanized due to misunderstandings about them.
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So, Acorn is now an ambassador for misunderstood dogs, especially deaf ones. He has his own book called Deafinitely Awesome: The Story of Acorn. He’s also the face of The Acorn Project, which is a toolkit for training deaf dogs to increase their chances of adoption.
“I mean, I’d say 50 dogs had been adopted because people will write me all the time and say, ‘I adopted my own Acorn,’” Motley said.
Acorn went from a rambunctious puppy no one wanted to deal with to a canine celebrity. He will continue advocating for “less adoptable” dogs to show the world that all dogs are wonderful if given a chance. You can follow Acorn on Facebook to see updates about his journey.
Featured Image: Facebook