The young Australian Shepherd had been left at the animal shelter in Purcell, Oklahoma, three times. First by the breeder who brought him into this world, next by a foster family, and finally by the people who adopted, neglected, and abused him. The dog was days away from being euthanized. Repeated rejection, all because he was deaf.
Fortunately, the Pets & People Humane Society in nearby Yukon knew of someone in the area looking for a dog just like him. Billy Thomas already had a deaf Dalmatian–Pointer rescue named Patience with whom he volunteered as a certified animal-assisted therapy team. He wanted to repeat that success by adopting another deaf dog to help with the many requests that came in for her services.
“I was supposed to go see a dog in Colorado soon,” Thomas says of the day in 2010 that he got the call from PPHS, “but that dog was safe and this one wasn’t.”
He met the 16-month-old Aussie and found his temperament a good fit for the work. Thomas also knew the dog would clean up well, despite the appearance that inspired his new name: Whiskey.
“When I picked him up, he looked like a bottle of Jack Daniels someone had thrown in a ditch,” he explains. “Black and white and dirty.”
Whiskey moved in with Thomas and his wife, Elaine, and Patience. The couple could tell right away that he had been neglected and abused.
“He didn’t even know how to pee. He would just stand there and pee on himself,” Thomas recalls, a sure sign that the dog had lived outside. “And you couldn’t pick anything up without him thinking you were going to hit him.”
Despite his unfortunate past, Whiskey was a fast learner at home and work, thanks in part to having such an accomplished role model. Patience worked in a variety of health care and educational settings — and even won the first People Saving Pets/PetSmart Charities “My Magnificent Adopted Pet” contest — before passing away from a stroke in 2012.
“It was monkey see, monkey do,” Thomas says of their teacher-student relationship. “She would sit by him and follow our hand signals, and he would watch and learn.”
Whiskey will turn 6 years old in November, and he shows no signs of slowing down as a certified therapy dog. He makes regular visits to the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital, where he works alongside the physical and occupational therapists.
“They use him as a motivator. There’s a bubble machine hooked up to a switch. They put the switch in different places and have the kids reach to push the button. He catches them in the air, doing 180s and 360s,” Thomas says.
Whiskey also visits the J.D. McCarty Center for Children With Developmental Disabilities, Dale Rogers Training Center, Toby Keith Foundation’s OK Kids Korral, and special education programs at various schools in the area.
Whiskey also has begun following in Patience’s paw prints as a trainer for the new dog in the Thomas home: Izzy. The miniature Australian Shepherd was supposed to stay only temporarily on her way to Deaf Dogs of Oregon, but the family has decided to keep her.
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