Each issue, we focus on some of the true heroes of the dog world, looking after our canine friends who need it most. This edition, we meet Sonja Coombes from Hear No Evil, Australian Deaf Dog Rescue to find out more about this great organisation.
DL: When did you first start Hear No Evil?
SC: I founded Hear No Evil in late 2014 because I noticed so many deaf dogs being overlooked in mainstream rescues. I had fostered deaf and special-needs dogs through different groups before and seeing them needing that extra helping hand kind of kicked it all off.
I started Hear No Evil originally as my own personal one-dog project — I was going to privately foster, train and adopt out just one deaf dog at a time.
That was fairly short-lived as once people found out what I was doing and what I was aiming for, a few supporters with similar passion stepped up to help and the rescue has just blossomed into what it is today — a nationwide non-profit rescue with foster dogs, coordinators, volunteers and ambassadors in almost every state and territory in the country!
DL: What makes your group unique?
SC: Hear No Evil is definitely a one-of-a-kind organisation. We are Australia’s first and only deaf and special-needs-specific rescue. We cater for dogs (and “honorary canines”) of all breeds, ages and needs. We are completely foster-care based so we don’t have a kennel or shelter; all our dogs are cared for in a home environment where they learn their basic training and manners and get gently introduced to all the things they may not have been previously exposed to but will encounter when they eventually move on to their forever families.
The majority of our rescue dogs are deaf, but we also see many that are blind, both deaf and blind, or have other special needs such as neurological issues or physical deformities.
These dogs have no idea that the general public considers them disabled or broken; they don’t know any differently. They don’t let their differences stop them from living happy and full lives and they continue to prove every day that deaf doesn’t mean dumb.
Most importantly, being deaf is not a death sentence. These deaf dogs can do anything a hearing dog can; the only real difference is the way of communicating with them.
DL: Tell us about one dog that’s touched you personally.
SC: We’ve had more than 100 deafies come through the rescue now but one I remember well is Moose.
This leggy, floppy, pink-nosed Bull Arab pup holds a special place in my heart, but it’s not because of his tragic backstory or because he had any particular issue to overcome. It’s because he was Hear No Evil’s first dog to find his forever home.
Moose was just 12 weeks old when he came into the rescue after his breeder discovered he was deaf. Because he would be unable to sell him or use him for hunting, he was just going to shoot him. With the help of another rescue local to the area, we were able to convince the owner to save his bullet and Hear No Evil would take the pup in to train and rehome.
His carers had never had a deaf dog before but were more than happy to learn how to communicate with him via sign language and never once gave up, which I’m very grateful for. The biggest hurdle we find carers struggle with is learning a completely new way of communicating but once you’ve got the hang of it, it becomes second nature and you don’t even realise you’re doing it anymore.
“We found that with him, everything is visual. He is always watching what you are doing, although initially it was a little hard to remember he couldn’t hear me and he had to see me to take instruction with hand signs. We soon got the hang of it,” foster carer Andrea says.
“We gave him his name and learnt what it was in Auslan so whenever we greet him, it’s done by using sign to say Moose.”
Moose is such a relaxed pup. He took to training well and when he’d had all his vet work completed, he became available for adoption. It wasn’t long after that the first application for this gorgeous pup came in but even though Moose was ready, his carers just couldn’t let him go. Moose had stolen their hearts and there was no way they could part with him.
Hear No Evil’s first adoption was what is affectionately known in rescue terms as a “foster fail”.
More than two years later, Moose has grown to look more Great Dane than Bull Arab, weighing in at 56kg, and is thriving in his forever home. He is a gentle giant and a lazy one at that, spending most of his time lounging around with his two best mates who just happen to be Chihuahuas.
His carers are still active members of the rescue and with Moose’s help, they continue to assist the Hear No Evil team educate and raise awareness for deaf and special-needs dogs.
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