SALEM (WSLS10)-- A local non-profit organization is gaining national attention for the work it does, especially when it comes to dogs that are hearing impaired. Deaf Dogs Rock is a finalist for several awards at the Blog Paws conference in Phoenix.
Taking in any rescue dog is a big commitment, but a dog that is deaf comes with its own unique and sometimes difficult challenges. That's the choice that Chris and Christina Lee made six years ago when they adopted Nitro from the Salem Animal Shelter. They knew the boxer was deaf when they got him, but that was a challenge they were willing to take on. The pair very quickly realized there just weren't a lot of resources for people with deaf dogs.
"We were like anyone else about to get a deaf dog, so we went to google," says Chris. "We started searching and there really wasn't much information. What was out there was very outdated."
That's when the couple created Deaf Dogs Rock, an online resource for families who have adopted dogs that are deaf. The sites provide resources, a list of adoptable deaf dogs across the nation and answers to training questions. Overall, they try to give support to a community that, until recently, didn't have a lot of information available.
"We have a lot of deaf families that are adopting deaf puppies," says Christina. "They can come and say, 'I'm having problems with my puppy.' They ask a question and get like 50 answers from people who have deaf dogs. It's a huge community."
The information they have made available is making it easier for shelters to take in and adopt out dogs that are hearing impaired.
"It used to be that if a breeder had a deaf puppy, like dalmatian breeders, they used to put them to sleep," says Christina. "They still do somewhat, but we're working with shelters and with some breeders. We have our rocker puppy program where we sponsor deaf puppies into partner rescues that we work with."
Over the past six years, more than 2,000 deaf dogs have been saved through the site, including China. She's a deaf puppy that was saved from a local breeder over the weekend and taken to an animal shelter in Charlottesville that works alongside Deaf Dogs Rock.
Another deaf dog, Captain Jack, serves as the ambassador for the Salem Animal Shelter. He's often used to visit schools, because the loud noises don't bother him. His owner, Rebecca Custer, is the one who introduced Chris and Christina to their first dog, Nitro.
"Now we can educate more people and realize there are more options," says Rebecca Custer, the manager at the Salem Animal Shelter. "They're really good dogs and while they have special needs, they have special attachments too and are really great for families."
Later this month, the program will be recognized nationally at the Blog Paws conference in Phoenix. Deaf Dogs Rock has been named as a finalist for the Nose-to-Nose Social Media Award. They've also been nominated for the Best Micro-Blog, Best Use of Social Media and Best Design.
You can find out more about Deaf Dogs Rock here.