A new start to life with a kind-hearted Dunedin man is working out brilliantly for profoundly deaf whippet-kelpie cross dog Lucy.
Uplifted by Gore District Council after being mistreated and unwanted by her original owner, Lucy (formerly Sally) was brought to the Otago SPCA in Dunedin about six months ago.
The clever-but-unsocialised two year-old dog was taken under the wing of SPCA Otago volunteer co-ordinator Courtney Moore, who set about putting her on a new path.
She was taught basic sign language, so that the team could communicate with her and to help give her the best chance in her future home.
“Sally [now Lucy] is completely deaf, and had had virtually no socialisation, so we had to teach her how to be a dog,” Ms Moore said.
“I worked on getting her used to being inside a home, and also basic hand-signal commands like sit, wait, and come.”
And it was love at first sight when Dunedin man Kyle Atkins visited the SPCA animal shelter in Opoho a month ago, keen to give an older or disabled dog a good life.
“They told me they had two puppies and a deaf dog, so we went to meet her, she ran up to me, and that was that,” Mr Atkins said.
Having worked in the office at Christchurch City Council animal management before moving to Dunedin, and as the former owner of an American Staffordshire terrier, he felt confident he had the knowledge to take on a dog with special needs.
Mr Atkins decided to re-name her Lucy.
“When I took her home, she was very excitable and needed a lot of attention – it took about three weeks for her to settle in and calm down,” Mr Atkins said.
“She reads body language very well, and we use sign language for commands – funnily enough, I still talk to her as well.”
Mr Aitken is careful to walk Lucy on a lead – as calling her back is very difficult.
In the month since they have been together, the pair have grown very close, and Mr Aitken admits that Lucy is “spoilt rotten”.
“If you’ve ever owned dogs, I strongly support taking a dog with special needs.
“There are a few adjustments, but the connection they make with you is special and strong.”