Deaf dog learns how to communicate via sign language

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A new opportunity is available for deaf dogs. They no longer have to suffer in silence; inmates at a Missouri prison as well as students at Missouri's School for the Deaf both pitched in recently to train a deaf dachshund named Sparky to communicate in sign language.

The superintendent at the school, Barbara Garrison, thought it was a great idea to bring the dog to the school. "She really thought it would be a great learning experience for the kids", her secretary, Barbara McGrath, said.

Thanks to his training, Sparky is able to respond to hand signs meaning sit, heel, lie down, and stop and is working on additional signs that mean "food" or "outside."

Sparky came from the Puppies for Parole program of the Missouri Department of Corrections. The program consists of inmates training animals that might otherwise be put down because of their less-than-ideal behavioral traits or physical defects, making them difficult to find new homes.

Sparky came from the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri, where Tina Holland is the activities coordinator. "It's been wonderful -- it's gone far beyond what we thought it would be," Holland said. "Their goal is just to get these dogs a home."

A second deaf dog, a Boston Terrier named Petie, may be joining Sparky at the deaf school, depending on his ability to eventually find a permanent home. Petie currently resides at the South Central Correctional Center.

Geanna Marek | @greenvegnliving
Geanna was born and raised in veg-friendly Portland where she currently works as a freelance writer and librarian assistant. She is also currently acquiring the pre-requisites needed to apply for a Master’s degree in nutrition. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, exercising, reading, knitting, and cleaning. Find Geanna at


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