Bowie & Friends

Look Beyond My Disability: Meet Alma

Like humans, dogs don’t choose to come into this world with disabilities. However some dogs were born with it, some inherited it then became disabled later on in their life, and some sadly had it due to accident, neglect or mistreatment. Sometimes you can see the disability, but other times you can’t. These dogs adapt to their unique bodies without complaint, they survive with determination, they’re ready to love and they live life in the moment with joy.

Meet Alma! Laura adopted Alma from the incredible people at Melbourne Pet Ambulance. She had been incredibly neglected and relinquished after no longer being a breeding dog. She has had to have her ear canals removed due to chronic and untreatable infections over a period of years. When she came to Melbourne Pet Ambulance she was in a terribly neglected state. It was difficult to find her a home as she had a range of health issues and was reactive towards other dogs.

Laura always keeps things very predictable for Alma. She knows exactly how her day will play out. She knows the routine leading up to food time, where her water is, when is walking time and all the hand cues to help her get through life.

Because Alma is deaf, she picks up on what the other dogs are doing, though she will look for Laura a lot to feel safe. Alma is incredibly inquisitive and uses her nose a lot. Laura does a bit of nose work with her, which she loves. Because she’s heavily food motivated, Laura hides food for her to find inside the house and outdoors.

I asked Laura what the challenges and rewards are of living with a deaf rescue dog. She said, ‘A dog who is deaf is a great challenge and it teaches you the value of being clear and consistent. It’s also so rewarding to rescue a dog who has a disability, and to gain their complete trust.’

‘The challenges are few to be honest,’ she continued. ‘It’s really just about managing your expectations. I make sure I can always see Alma. If I can’t see her, I can’t call her to me.’

‘She’s extraordinarily good with hand cues from afar, so when she does wander a little, she regularly looks up to see me, and if I cue her to come back she bounds back with such excitement.’

Laura told me that the recall for deaf dogs is no different than with able hearing dogs. It’s about being consistent and ensuring that the recall is always a huge amount of fun!

When you rescue a dog, they say it’s you who ends up rescued… For Laura, rescuing a dog makes her a better person, especially a dog who has additional needs, they can challenge you in wonderful way that really makes you think. Parting words from Laura, ‘Do it. I highly recommend it!’

Laura and Alma

Thank you Laura Vissaritis – 3AW dog expert, ABC Radio Melbourne regulars, pet behaviourist, dog trainer, best selling author, founder of Dognitive Therapy, and dog mom to Chester and Alma – for your amazing kindness, continuous contribution and advocacy for rescue dogs.

Check out Laura’s newly released book called ‘The Rescue Dog: A Practical Guide to Adopting, Training and Living with a Dog with Emotional Baggage.’

Image credit to Laura V, Dognitive Therapy

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