This month, we feature two very special Dalmatians, “Helen” and “Satch”. These great dogs, who happen to be deaf, belong to Robert Ferguson, a member of our Information Services – Networking team. Robert actually learned sign language to allow him to communicate with Helen and Satch, who both became members of Robert’s family through rescue agencies. Helen is approximately 14 years old and came to Robert from a family that adopted her after she was rescued from a shelter that had been cited for abuse. Satch is about 9 years old and was rescued through Ruff Love Rescue. This charitable initiative helps locate homes for unwanted cats and dogs. Robert says that both Helen and Satch are like members of his family now, and very much loved.
Because both dogs are deaf, Robert decided to try to teach the dogs sign language in order to communicate with them. Robert had a few options from which to choose, including creating his own system or employing visual signs that are commonly used with hunting dogs. Robert ultimately tried something more creative, using American Sign Language (the prevalent signing standard for deaf humans) to communicate with Helen and Satch. Robert learned American Sign Language from his brother, who is a professional sign language instructor. Although it took a while to teach Helen and Satch this system, they are very intelligent, and proved to be excellent learners. Both Helen and Satch are faithful companions. Robert said, “I can’t think of a better way to relax at the end of a stressful day than to come home to someone who loves you unconditionally. A pat on the head, a rub on the tummy, and a little food in the dish and they’re happy.”
Helen and Satch have a friend at home, a dog named Charlie who is a mixed breed. Although Charlie can hear, Robert says he does not listen very well !! When asked, what is your favorite part of the Replacements pet-friendly policy, Robert had this to say, “I appreciate Replacement’s pet policy. Satch has only been to work with me a couple of times but Helen has come with me often. She has been the calming factor in an otherwise stressful day. When I’m having a challenging day, I know that I am a pet-of-the-head away from love and relaxation. Even though Helen and Satch are older and deaf, I don’t regret adopting them and would do it all over again.”