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Christina Lee: Founder and President of Deaf Dogs Rock

Deaf Dogs Rock is on a mission to educate the public on the needs of deaf dogs in shelters to ensure they are placed with families who will keep them safe, well-trained, and happy. What started with training just one deaf puppy named Nitro has blossomed into a community of tens of thousands around the country who are committed to advocating for the well-being of deaf dogs. Learn more about Christina’s inspiring work here!


What inspired you to start Deaf Dogs Rock?


In 2010, an animal control officer found a deaf boxer puppy that had been dumped at a river by a breeder. The little dog was skin and bones, and he ended up at the City of Salem Animal Shelter which my friend directed at the time. My friend invited me to meet the puppy, and it only took one day for my husband and I to decide to adopt him. We named him Nitro and he fit right in with our other three dogs, but he was detached from me and my husband. We found a video online showing ASL signs that are used to communicate with deaf dogs, and we studied all of them before taking Nitro to a positive reinforcement puppy training class. Nitro excelled with this kind of training, and went on to pass many other training classes. A reporter at WDBJ7 covered Nitro’s story, and we got questions from all over the country about deaf dogs. We quickly realized that deaf dogs in shelters were often overlooked or put to sleep, and we decided to step up and advocate for the most vulnerable dogs in shelters. 


Are there any misconceptions about deaf dogs that you can dispel? 


Back in 2011 when we first started, shelters thought it was too big of a liability to place a deaf dog or deaf puppy in a new adoptable home. They feared the dogs would be more aggressive— which is a myth. We have done our very best to educate shelters, shelter staff, rescue organizations, breeders and individuals that deaf dogs are very much adoptable. If shelters, rescues, breeders and individuals take the time to screen potential homes carefully and be sure to focus on individuals who will be committed to daily positive reinforcement sign training, socialization, and enrichment for each deaf dog, then the odds of each deaf pup doing well and being set up for success rises with each adoption. Education is a job I take very seriously with every single email I answer. 


Tell me about the dogs you work with— what are some success stories?


We mostly help deaf dogs that are at kill shelters or on euthanasia lists who need a rescue to step in and save them. My job is to work closely with each shelter, reach out to our special needs rescue partners, and also reach out to rescues who are not necessarily special needs to offer financial sponsorship for those dogs. By helping with the vetting expenses and offering help to each rescue, the rescues are more likely to help a deaf dog in need of rescue. We also coach shelter staff and direct them towards our training resources that can help even beginners start training. We offer our Deaf Community members who have adopted deaf dogs or are hoping to adopt a deaf dog resources with training videos done in American Sign Language.


What is the best part of your job? 


The best part of my job is knowing I can make a huge difference not only in the lives deaf dogs but also in the lives of those who adopt them. I get daily emails from people in desperate situations who are stressed and heartbroken seeking help for their deaf dog. If they take the time to reach out to me here at Deaf Dogs Rock they will find that they are not alone. The two questions I always ask are: How can I help you? How can I help your dog? We’ve been able to help so many deaf dogs. Nitro passed away in 2018, and my husband and I have had a total of 7 deaf dogs since adopting him. 

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