Every dog has their own personality with their own needs. Some dogs wimper when you have to leave the house. Some dogs won’t go outside to pee without you by their side. Some dogs insist on sleeping in bed with you, despite the extra-large dog bed you bought just for them.
Deaf dogs need all of this from their owners and more. Deaf dogs are one of a kind and that calls for a perfect owner who will give them special love and care, which is not easy to find. Born in South Dakota and raised in Nebraska, Christina Lee, founder and blogger of Deaf Dogs Rock, knows this first-hand.
Lee and her husband started educating people about deaf dogs through their blog on August 1, 2011. Nitro, the tiny white boxer who was dumped by the river in Salem, Virginia, is the inspiration behind Lee’s blog. Lee rescued Nitro at Salem Animal Shelter, where Lee volunteered at and took photos of the adoptable pups to list on Facebook.
Lee and her husband agreed to take in this puppy — with no experience with deaf dogs whatsoever and named him Nitro, and their journey began. In April 2011, their local news station WDBJ did a story about Lee and Nitro. The story featured Lee training Nitro and his process of learning American Sign Language.
“Once the news story about Nitro and I went National, we started receiving emails from people all over the U.S.,” said Lee. “The emails were from people needing assistance with training their deaf dogs or from shelters needing help finding deaf dogs a rescue or a forever home. The response was so great I decided to do a blog on everything deaf dog to help new deaf dog families and shelters.”
Lee was pretty much going into her journey with Nitro blindfolded. Lee turned to blogging sites to get all of her information, similar to her blog that has now expanded into educating her audience.
“I think blogging is the new generation of journalism,” said Lee. “If I need training information I am going to go to Victoria Stilwell’s blog at Positively.com. If I want to know about canine medical information, I go to PetMD.com. If I want to look at Canine Nutrition Basics, I might visit go TheBark.com. If I have a deaf dog family looking for quality dog food, I give them my personal recommendations, but I also direct them to DogFoodAdvisor.com. The new media is bloggers because they are credible, trusted and they are the front line of pet influencers.”
Today, Lee has three deaf dogs. Two of her deaf dogs are boxers Bud and Nitro. The newest addition to the family, Bowie, is a Boston terrier. Outside of her deaf fur-babies, she has two senior dogs.
Deaf dogs face discrimination from the time they are in the shelters and face challenges throughout their lives. In shelters, deaf dogs are usually the first to be euthanized.
“Five years ago putting a deaf pup on the adoption floor was unheard of,” said Lee. “Many of the shelter workers believe all the myths that deaf dogs are more aggressive and therefore unadoptable, which isn’t true. They are 30 to 35 percent less aggressive.”
After years of educating people through inspiring deaf dog stories on Deaf Dogs Rock Happy Trails and Extraordinary Deaf Dogs Wall of Fame, Lee has shelters reaching out to her to find deaf dogs a forever home. Her blog also features stories about deaf dogs doing therapy work, service dog work, PTSD service dog work and competitions such as agility, rally, nose work and fly ball.
“My best advice to people starting a blog is try to be your own person and don’t compare yourself to other blogs or bloggers,” said Lee. “Always know your focus and keep your focus. When I get side tracked, I ask myself ‘will this help deaf dogs?’ If the answer is ‘no,’ then I am not focused on the right path so I recalibrate my focus.”
There are several challenges that come with living with your deaf dogs such as the separation anxiety common in deaf dogs (trust me, I know a 90-lb deaf dog who tries to sit on me while I eat dinner because I’m not close enough). Deaf dogs need a person who is patient and dedicated to giving them the best doggy life possible.
Just like any blog, there is a lot of work involved in order to maintain it. At Deaf Dogs Rock, Lee runs all social media channels, manages the website which includes tasks such as listing adoptions, writing training articles and happy tails, answers emails from animal shelters, breeders and private owners to find places for their deaf dogs and works with guest bloggers.
Lee finds that the most difficult part about her blog is finding the time to update over 300 deaf dog adoption listings as well as new listings and keeping the support blog and news blog updated.
Within her rescue, Lee coordinates with partner rescues to figure out who has room and who can transport dogs to safety, raises money, agrees to interviews and writes articles for publications such as USA Today’s Pet Guide, Woman’s World Daily and Dog Fancy Magazine.
“My favorite part about running a blog is the letters I receive from deaf dog families who want to share with me how Deaf Dogs Rock has made such a huge impact in their daily lives,” said Lee. “I can be having a crazy busy day and when I open up a message from someone who takes the time to write to me and let me know just how much our organizations means to them, then I know I am on the right path.”