Ruth’s first language is American Sign Language (ASL) because her parents are deaf. So, of course, when the family adopted a deaf kitten they named it “Snowy,” reflecting on her white fur and taught it kitty ASL.
When they called Snowy, they used the ASL sign for “snow.” They’d hold one hand up like a “this is a stick-up” and then wiggle their fingertips downwards. When Snowy saw her name sign, she would run to them. When Ruth grew up, she began working for a deaf and hard-of-hearing organization.
In late autumn two years ago, her fiercely-independent 89-year-old grandmother’s health and mind deteriorated so fast that she forgot she had Bonnie, an eight-year-old dog. The grandmother was placed in a hospital and the family was oddly not alerted. Nine days later, Ruth arrived at her grandmother’s home to find it in total disarray. The starving dog was using the home as a litter box and the heat was off.
Ruth gathered up Bonnie and her belongings and took her home. She and her husband rented a one-pet home with Ruth’s 19-year-old cat, Babee. Desperate, Ruth phoned her landlord who thankfully said she could keep Bonnie — but now she had to tell Babee.
“When Bonnie walked in, she sniffed Babee once and then walked away,” recalled Ruth. “Since that brief introduction there has never being a hiss or a bark. She is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had. I take her to work and everyone loves her sweet, gentle soul.”
Bonnie had always been with Ruth’s grandmother and was not accustomed to being left alone. Ruth’s co-workers bring dogs to work, so Bonnie tagged along too. To keep the furry social butterfly in her office there is a gate at the door. It wasn’t just the staff, who fell in love Bonnie. Clients in the waiting room respond to gentle-souled Bonnie by putting out their hands to pet and love on her. They often ask, “Is your dog deaf?” or “Are you bringing her in for a hearing test?” and “Is she your guide dog?”
“Having a dog at work relaxes the staff and our clients,” said Ruth. “Dogs put smiles on faces.” It may not be the norm to have pets at work, but Ruth hopes that changes because it is so paws-itive.
Bonnie fits toddler size 5-6 t-shirts. So, on Halloween, she wore one with monsters on the back. The following Halloween she was Yoda because she is such a chill dog. Her Christmas shirt read: “Naughty? Nice? I tried!”
Ruth confesses to actually being a cat purr-son before Bonnie’s sudden arrival.
“We are so blessed with her,” said Ruth. “People and pets can learn ASL. It can be helpful at any stage of our lives. Bonnie knows the signs for ‘walk’ and ‘want to go potty outside?’ Of course, she gets more excited for the “walk” sign.
The day that Ruth suddenly adopted Bonnie, her husband was out of town. “I sent him a photo of her in our house. Brian did not bark or hiss at all,” said Ruth. “Instead. he typed back, ‘What’s my dog’s name?’”
“Have things in place for your pets no matter your age,” advises Ruth. “Pets are our loved ones, more so in our later years when they are all we have and we are alone. No one can predict how fast our health can change. We had no medical history for Bonnie. If you have pets talk to your family, just like you do when you have children that may suddenly need ‘new parents.’ Bonnie did not need to suffer for a whole week; no walks, water or food. I would have been there in a heartbeat if I had known.
Teach hearing and deaf dogs sign language! Signing works wonders when a dog is out of voice range. ASL instructions are on the internet.” www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLXxmrbrvxs
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Humane Society for Neuter/Spay Assistance Program. 541-942-2789