When Rosie the Pit Bull turned up at the Central Nebraska Humane Society three months ago, staff didn’t know what was wrong with her. The dog was sweet but scared, yet there was something they couldn’t pinpoint. Then they got it.
Rosie couldn’t hear them. She was deaf.
That was all it took for shelter volunteer Tracie Pfeifle, who began teaching the three-year-old dog sign language, hoping to break her out of her shell.
“You can get most dogs’ attention by saying their name or making a sound, but she can’t respond to that because she is deaf,” Pfeifle told KCTV5.
Rosie immediately took to it, and after learning just a few signs, the dog began to transform.
“We started using treats and putting the treat up to your face and saying ‘good girl’ with your thumb up, and then she figured out how, that we were communicating with her,” Pfeifle told KCTV5. “It was just amazing to watch her just blossom into a dog, I don’t think she knew how to be a dog.”
Pfeifle taught Rosie the usual way, with repetition, plenty of treats, and an American Sign Language book. But she knew she had to adapt the language for dog owners, so she created a one-handed version — one hand to do the motions and the other to hold the leash.
It’s been exciting to watch,” she told the New York Daily News back in March. “It’s not that complicated [to train deaf dogs]. You just have to be more visual and right in front of their face. … It’s amazing to watch her come into her own person. She reacts well with others now where before she was reserved.”
In the three months of Rosie’s training, the formerly skittish dog had become perfectly adoptable. She just needed the right person to walk through the door.
That person was Cindy Koch, who is also deaf. She had always wanted a deaf dog, “because I’m deaf and we want to relate to her, and understand how she feels,” she told KCTV5. “We want to communicate with her through signing.”
Koch and her family came to meet Rosie and everything clicked.
For Pfeifle, the moment Rosie took off for her new life was happy one, but it was hard to see her go.
“It’s what I hoped would eventually happen and it did — she couldn’t have gone to a nicer family.”
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