The Colorado Deaf Dog group was started in June of 2000 by Diane DuBose who adopted a deaf Australian Shepherd named Spirit.
While looking at a website, she noticed a wonderful sounding dog that happened to be deaf. Diane was Spirit’s fifth home but she felt he held great promise as a possible agility and obedience dog. She did have concerns about his “challenges” but was told he was very loving and eager to please. “Am I crazy to get this dog?” she said. As a full time trainer who worked at her home, she decided she had the time necessary to dedicate to him.
In the first week he learned four to five signs and she could tell he was coming around because of the increased communication between them. He knew about 30 signs. She joined the DDEAF group, www.deafdogs.org that had over 800 members, most experienced deaf dog owners and some novices like herself.
She found that it wasn’t any more difficult to train Spirit than her hearing dogs. He was willing to do anything. He could run an agility course. He was outstanding in obedience classes. It took several weeks for others to realize that he was deaf. One lady said she just thought he was smart because he understood hand signals.
From the Deaf Dog email list she learned that many cities were holding “deaf dog picnics” in the spring of 2000. She decided to do the same. She contacted the media and put out an announcement on Denver Dogs email list. Eleven families with deaf dogs showed up, some with their hearing buddies. Two TV stations came and ran it on their evening news which prompted more calls from owners of deaf dogs and an interview with the Rocky Mountain News. That’s when she met Rhonda Champion. Thank goodness, because Rhonda had 10 years of experience with a deaf dog. The groups held another picnic in the fall and have continued to hold yearly gatherings since 2000.
The list of Colorado contacts has grown to over 150 names.