How old are you?
Age-approximately 6 years old
How did you find your forever home?
Mom saw me on Petfinder and came to evaluate/pull me as her next foster for an Australian Shepherd Rescue. An approved family was very interested in adopting me but, at the last minute, opted to get a Border Collie puppy instead. That’s okay because, by that time, I’d made myself right at home at Mom’s place and fit in seamlessly with the rest of her pack.
How did the foundation start?
Fabulous McGrady and Friends Foundation (FMFF) was inspired by my former shelter. When Mom came to evaluate me at my former shelter, she found at that the shelter, which is over 2 hours drive one way from any big metropolitan area, had given me 35 days instead of just the mandatory 7-day stray dog hold—and that was despite them suspecting me to be deaf. She thought that they must have tons of donor support and rescue resources to have given a suspected deaf dog so much time given their location. However, a year later, she found out I was one of 256 animals to make it out of the shelter all year—not because they didn’t want to save more—but because few private citizens came to adopt, there weren’t any rescues with volunteers in the area, and there wasn’t a huge amount of donor support providing extra resources to allow animals more time. Mom had initially thought my reason for being was to be an AmbassaDog for deaf dogs but, after learning that my former shelter was in need, she realized that my mission would be to help my former and other rural animal shelters.
Would you like to share a bit about what the foundation does?
FMFF provides goods and services to rural Carolinas animal shelters that directly and positively affect the comfort and well-being of animals within those shelters. One of our biggest goals is to help people recycle unused pet-related items sitting in their closets/backyards that they don’t need but which rural animal shelters cannot afford to buy…examples would include Igloo Insulated Plastic Dog Houses, airline/wire crates, dog/cat collars and leashes/harnesses, metal food and water bowls/pails, etc. We also conduct food and supply drives (ie, kitty litter, etc) as having more food allows shelters to keep animals longer. We can also provide assistance to shelter staff in how to select reputable rescues, tips on photographing shelter animals, etc.
Is there a way that people can get involved by donating or volunteering?
Interested persons can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram where I’m listed as “Fabulous McGrady” or check out the website www.fabulousmcgrady.org We are a registered non-profit in NC but do not yet have 501c3 (tax-exempt) status….that paperwork is in process. If people in the Charlotte Metro area have things they’d like to recycle in the Charlotte area, we’ll gladly pick them up. Small items can be mailed to our PO Box (PO Box 1443, Matthews NC 28106).
What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had since starting the foundation?
The most rewarding thing has been seeing the look of surprise on the faces of the Animal Control Officers when I lower the tailgate on the back of the Chevy Avalanche at the time we deliver everything! It seems that when people tell them they’re bringing a car or truckload of food that it’s really only a few bags in the backseat. We bring anywhere between 500-nearly 1000 lbs of food with each supply run (for shelters who need food). The other rewarding thing is that you know that food will give animals more time.
How long did it take to learn basic commands?
Deaf dogs can be just as easily trained as hearing dogs—in some cases even EASIER because there’s no outside noise to distract us. I learned basic commands very quickly—probably 2 weeks tops. Mom had taken several of my pack mates through Clicker Training before I came along. In that type training, you use hand signals and mark good behavior with a clicker. Thus, Mom used those hand signals but then also read on www.deafdogs.org about using a “Thumbs Up” sign in place of a clicker to mark good behavior. She “loaded” her thumb like you “load” a clicker at first (ie, in rapid succession do thumbs up sign, give treat, thumbs up, treat, etc).
What would you like people to know about yourself or deaf dogs?
There a few things I’d like people to know about deaf dogs:
1) you do NOT have to know American Sign Language to successfully train a deaf dog. If you know ASL, that’s fantastic and I’d definitely use it. However, it’s more important to use a system that works for you and your dog. Mom “invented” several hand signals that we use. She made sure they looked sufficiently different from other ones so I understood it was a different command. She does make sure that I understand that the same signal from EITHER hand means the same thing (think about if you’re carrying in groceries and need to tell your deaf dog something with a free hand). Be sure that signals are consistent and mean the same thing each time.
2) deaf dogs can lead full, happy lives. My brother Sydney and I are Mom’s “go-to” dogs when it comes to hiking in the mountains. I got to day camp regularly and the ladies love me there! I can be just as bratty as a hearing dog, too, (Mom made me say that!). You see, if I don’t want to do something she says, I’ve learned to dramatically look away from her so “if I don’t see it, I don’t have to do it.”….but I do like to look back to be sure she SEES that I’m ignoring her. Upon first meeting me and learning of my deafness, people often tell us how “sorry” they are that I’m deaf. Mom then starts throwing hand signals my way and they quickly start saying, “Wow! How smart!”
3) don’t underestimate yourself or a deaf dog. Many people automatically say “oh, I’d never consider a deaf dog…they’re too hard to train.” Just like with training ANY dog, you have to be patient and you may have to try something repeatedly at first. However, deaf dogs can learn and you do NOT have to have a special degree to train a deaf dog….just patience, time, love, consistency and understanding…as you have to have with ANY dog.
4) deaf dogs are NOT all “time bombs”. When Mom was looking at information for training deaf dogs, she was horrified at the literature about deaf dogs being “time bombs”. I am the first deaf dog Mom has ever had and clearly I missed that memo. I came here at age 3 without prior training and there was an old bullet inside my L thigh that was discovered during surgery to remove a “knot” that Mom found right after I came from the shelter (ie, my past life was not the best). . Mom wakes me with a gentle touch of my paw, by putting her hand right in front of my nose or my tapping on the floor (or by having my pack mate Betsey come over and “lick me awake”!). I do not startle at all.
5) It is VERY important to make touching FUN for your deaf (and hearing) dogs. Within the first 2 weeks out of the shelter, we had a young child break away from her Dad and come running up behind us. We didn’t hear/see her coming and she grabbed me around my back in a bear hug. Mom and I were stunned! The little girl then proceeds to run after me and all I’m doing is to try to “hop” away from her. Although my prior life wasn’t the best, I did NOT offer to growl or bite…just hop away from her. At that point Mom bought me an “I’m Deaf” vest so that (hopefully) that wouldn’t happen again but also to educate people from afar that the well-mannered dog walking with Mom is deaf. (we only go into stores that allow non-service dogs).
Is there anything else you would like people to know about yourself or your foundation?
I’d like to encourage people to call their area rural shelters and ask what they need, whether they are a kill or a no-kill shelter. Positive change happens ONLY if people work together and understand why a situation is as it is.
Sheley and McGrady
Author’s Note: Many thanks to Miss Sheley and McGrady for sharing their story. Pictures were used with permission. You can find him on facebook, twitter and the blog.
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