Friday, June 12, 2015

Summit Love

I’m here to tell you the story of Summit, a 6 month old, scrawny rescue dog who changed my whole life.  But let me back the story up for you a bit….

Four years ago my husband and I adopted out first dog.  My husband grew up with dogs.  I did not.  While I thought dogs were adorable, I hadn’t ever felt companionship with one.  And I certainly didn’t want one to LICK me.  If it happened, I acted like Lucy from Peanuts…screaming about dog germs, disinfectant and iodine.

So what possessed me to get a dog? I’ll never be able to answer that.  BUT I do know that after months and months of searching, I fell in love with Roxy on the Glen Highland Farm website.  She was just there for display and had been deemed unadoptable.  She had been through a number of families already and had been returned.  She had OCD issues and they were bad.  But this isn’t a story about Roxy. 

Fast forward about three years and Summit came into our lives.  A breeder who couldn’t sell him gave him to Glen Highland Farm.  He was also adopted out and returned to the farm.  We saw Summit on their website and though he was adorable (he was then known as Kiran).  WE thought to inquire about him, but in the meantime we were asked to foster him.  A volunteer drove him to our home one winter evening and I was smitten.

Summit was just a kooky as the rescue organization has stated.  But the cuteness level was off the chart.  He was skittish and while he was interested in us, he was also a little fearful.  We started by letting him sniff about and get some snuggles from us when he wanted them.  However, he had no idea what was to come.

In the following weeks and months Summit slowly and surely started training.  We redirected him when he was chasing things or racing around obsessively.  (While this isn’t a healthy habit, it certainly burns calories and I’ve considered taking it up on my own.)  We use positive reinforcement and redirection.  Meaning, if either dog is taking part in an undesirable behavior we change what they are thinking about.  If they are doing something we approve of, they get positive reinforcements.
I went out and bought an American Sign Language book, read countless blogs and starting doing all the research I could to give Summit the best chance of being able to communicate with us.  However, we had to stop the obsessing first.  This took a while.  (Months and months in fact.) However, during this time I just signed to him whenever we did something like going outside, eating a meal, or getting a little love. 

Eventually he started to calm down.  (And we’re still not 100% calm!)  At the same time, he started to recognize the sign language and all of those days, weeks and months of feeling like I was talking (signing) to myself were paying off. 

Summit now knows about a dozen signs.  He recognizes everything from stay to good boy.  His favorite sign is “I Love You” and means pets and snuggles are coming his way. 

We’ve had Summit about 18 months now and he just turned two. He is now a love bug who no longer shies away from petting, he demands it.  He would rather get snuggled than race around the room.  He prefers to have a careful eye on your at all times.  If he can be touching me, that’s even better.  For example, I work from home and he will sleep under my desk.  But he really prefers it if he can be ON my foot.  If I were to get up and move, he will know it and can follow suit. 

The bond between Roxy and Summit is amazing.  While I’m sure Roxy was thrilling being an “only dog”, but engages Summit a few times a day for a friendly game of hide and seek, chase and race around my office area.  If Summit has dithered off and I can’t easily catch his eye to get him to come back to me I can tell Roxy to “Go get Summit.” And she will!  Roxy was very well voice command trained and Summit is so in love with her, he follows suit.  It’s much easier for a deaf dog to have a buddy dog like Roxy. 

When I take Summit to places like the park or the vet’s office people are shocked to know he’s deaf.  He looks at me frequently and often the signs I give him are so small and quick that they can easily go unseen by someone who isn’t paying attention. 
Since I work from home, I could adjust my schedule to work with Summit, as he needed it.  I would have had a more difficult time training him if I only saw him in the evening hours after work.  I feel that his training success was due to repetition, patience and love. 

Summit has taught me that disabilities are not a disadvantage at all.  It’s a new way to see the world around us.  His deafness has taught me to think about others around me more.  I am now more empathetic to people who may be in need.  Summit brightens the day of everyone he comes into contact with.  Often people tell me they think it’s amazing I chose to adopt a deaf dog.  I think it’s amazing he chose me.

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