KenZee, a Deaf Australian Shepherd is
“Dog of the Day”
Michele adopted KenZee from a rescue group out of Ohio called Speak for the Unspoken. They specialize in dogs that are blind or deaf or both. Their rescue is doing amazing work to show everyone that differently abled dogs can live a happy normal life just like any other dog.
“KenZee has opened my eyes to the fact that you really can do anything you put your mind to. Things I never thought were possible KenZee shows me she can do. KenZee is deaf but still does what she loves: Frisbee, Agility and High Jumping. Speak for the Unspoken’s saying is “we see Possibilities, not Disabilities”. That’s the motto KenZee and I always go by now. We may face a challenge but we will face it and overcome it together.”
With Michele and KenZee it was love at first sight- twice! Having first fallen in love with KenZee’s profile on Petfinder, (after wanting a merle Australian Shepherd for years) and when they finally met in person, Michele fell in love with the little fluff ball all over again!
“I came across Speak’s website and thought it would be awesome to have a deaf dog. I wanted help show everyone that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Once I saw her picture my heart dropped and I knew she had to be mine!”
KenZee was taken alongwith another puppy that was blind and deaf from an Amish farm before they would have been killed. KenZee was put into foster care where eventually Michele made the trip out to meet her, and the rest is history!
A Double Merle
“KenZee is what they call a double merle, it happens when you breed two merle dogs together.”
When two merle dogs are bred together, no matter the breed or coloring of the merle, this often results in the double merle pup being mostly white. However, the puppy often comes paired with hearing deficiencies due to the excess white affecting inner ear pigmentation. (For more information on this phenomenon check out this useful link)
Bringing KenZee Home
“KenZee was only 8 weeks old when I brought her home. It was a little change in the household only because we had to get use to having a deaf dog in the home. KenZee adjusted very well, almost immediately she loved playing with her other doggy sisters I have. But you can’t just yell “come” when you want the dogs to come in from playing anymore. We installed a big light in the back yard so when KenZee was out there in the dark she could see me giving hand signs to her.”
“KenZee loves her sister Zeeva. When Zeeva is not around KenZee will look for her. We also just got a Mini Australian Shepard named Kesi and KenZee is really close with her. The three of them are all with the performing dog team and travel together. When we are not at shows you will see the three of them playing and throwing toys around the living room!”
Michele believes it’s always good to have a friend for your deaf dog.
“When I need to get KenZee’s attention but she is not looking at me I have her sister Zeeva trained to go get her. Zeeva will walk up to her and give her a nudge so she knows to look at me.”
Michele also recommends you find a trainer that works with deaf dogs because having your dog understand a few basic commands is a must.
Training A Deaf Dog
“KenZee has been trained all on hand signs [and] with reward based training. When she does something right, just like you would tell any other dog “good dog”, I give KenZee a thumbs up. She is trained just like any hearing dog would be trained but with her she has to learn what each hand sign means. The huge plus to training a deaf dog is they can not hear the distractions around them. The first command you want to start any deaf dog off with is an eye contact command where they know to look at you. With a deaf dog if they are not looking at you, they don’t now what you want. KenZee learned her eye contact command by 10 weeks of age and then we went on from there with her tricks and commands. KenZee learned her basics and earned her Canine Good Citizen title by 7 months old”
Michele tells us that of course, there have been a few challenges with having KenZee.
“Her hardest adjustment was crate training and she didn’t like it at first. But now [with a little patience] she loves her crate. If you don’t see KenZee, you look in her crate and she will be laying in there with her favorite toy! Another slight difficulty is that although I still talk [verbally] to KenZee all the time, if KenZee is not looking at me she does not know I am or understand if I want something. But once you get use to the small adjustments of having a deaf dog, they are amazing! You can vacuum or have people come to the door without your dog bothering you! Some deaf dogs can be barkers but KenZee has only barked 6 times her whole two and a half years.”
Overall, Michele says there have always been more rewards than challenges with having KenZee.
“KenZee has competed in Canine freestyle through WCFO and has earned her first 2 titles. KenZee shows under a different category called “Handi Dandi” where it is ok to use hand signals as it is set up for handicapped dogs or handlers. KenZee has taken a step back from Canine freestyle now to do what she truly loves, Freestyle Frisbee. We take music and do tricks still but there is Frisbees involved. If KenZee wants to go back to dancing again we may try it in her future but right now her drive is for the Frisbee!”
Adopt Don’t Shop
Michele is a big advocate for adoption with seven dogs all together and five of them rescues from different places or groups. She says she has always preferred to adopt over shop because there are just too many dogs that need a home. She also wants people to realize that even purebred dogs are sitting in shelters and rescue groups waiting for their second chance.
Brando and Bogart says
What an amazing an inspirational article! KenZee is a truly amazing pup! She is proof that anything is possible! <3
Tonya Wilhelm says
What a great rescue story. Deaf dogs aren’t much different than hearing dogs. Great post.
KenZee is gorgeous! Thank you for sharing his wonderful story!
Ruth and Layla says
What a fantastic story, there are a few deaf dogs in our dog park always romping with others and the owners are just great, it does show that if you want to do something nothing can stop you
Christine Caplan says
This story is really inspiring – teaching (and learning) a dog to learn sign language I can only imagine creates such a special bond between the dog and it’s human companion. This story put a huge smile on my face – when I thought of the doorbell ringing and the three dogs I live with not barking. KenZee’s story is really important as folks need to know that deaf dogs are no different than any other dog – they can learn agility and dog sports or just hang out! Now I want to learn how to sign.
Amy Shojai, CABC says
Great story, and a handsome doggy. Overcoming deafness, what a smart pup! (hoping the captcha works this time, I hate those things…)
KenZee is adorable and I’m so glad she was rescued. What a great story! That’s very interesting about the double merle and deafness regarding being white. A lot of pure white cats are also deaf. We have a pure white cat, but she is not deaf.
What an awesome rescue story! KenZee goes to show you that a dog can do anything! And well done Michele for being such a caring owner.
What a gorgeous dog! A total looker for sure. I love seeing a handi-dog have such a full and wonderful life.
An inspiring article that shows that nothing is impossible. Moreover, by overcoming a challenge, one just might inspire others too. Thanks for rescuing KenZee and for making the necessary adaptions to help her have a full life. One of our local shelters works with deaf dogs to help them become adoptable. I wish everyone would put in such effort.
Beth Patterson says
I am glad that KenZee found her perfect match! I’m glad that Michelle focuses on what KenZee can do and can find the perks of having a deaf dog. (No to very little barking sounds like a dream!)
Rebecca at MattieDog says
I absolutely love your post – Kenzee is amazing!! We’ve adopted deaf dogs and just adored them – once you get the hang of it, deaf dogs are so easy to train (and they know to look at you)! Bless your heart!
Sweet Purrfections says
We had no idea the double merle coloring could cause deafness. My sister had a blue merle Australian Shepherd and she was a lovely dog.
Dash Kitten Crew says
THis is a brilliant read WoHooo I am cheering KenZee on from here!!!
Tenacious Little Terrier says
KenZee is inspirational and has achieved so much despite her disability! Would love to see one of her routines.
Hindy Pearson says
What an amazing rescue, dedicating themselves to helping these dogs. I adopted my dog Red when she was 8 and blind, and another dog was also around the same age, deaf and mostly blind. They hold a special place in my heart, and I’m so happy to read inspirational stories such as this one. This will help show a dog that is blind or deaf is still as amazing a companion as any other dog, and can live a full and happy life.
Talent Hounds says
I agree Hindy- happy to do a guest feature on your dogs as looking for inspiring stories. xs
Cathy Armato says
This is a truly inspirational story, Ken-Zee is herself an inspiration! What s great post. It’s amazing what some dogs can do despite their challenges.
Love & biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I love Speak for the Unspoken’s saying “we see Possibilities, not Disabilities.” I am curious to know why breeding Merle to Merle is done, knowing there are such high risks. Puppy Mills need to be shut down.
Molly Mednikow says
Thank you for another wonderful article. I am partially deaf and I donate to Dogs for the Deaf. I have a hearing dog, so if I don’t have my hearing aids and transmitter on she will alert me to alarms or the door. She failed in law school, however. The classes must have bored her and she would whine. I would try to keep her quiet by feeding her treats, thereby reinforcing bad behaviour! I remember once I said something in class, and my professor said “Even your dog thinks your’e wrong!”
The Daily Pip says
Oh, I love this story. I am so glad Michelle and KenZee found each other and that KenZee has adjusted to life so well. She’s a true inspiration. I have only recently become familiar with double merles. I am glad there is a rescue specifically for them. I love the rescue’s name “Speak for the Unspoken”
Jean Dion says
I never thought about having a helper dog for your deaf dog, but man. That idea makes so much sense. Every dog likes to have a job. And that’s one job that could keep a deaf dog in the home.
Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie