[Watch a YouTube video of Echo here: https://youtu.be/rzQ-XQkPO7A ]
Did you know that 80 per cent of Dalmatians are born either deaf on one side or both?
Echo, as we came to name our sweet Dalmation, was born with his disability. Despite being deaf in both ears from birth, he is the calmest and happiest puppy I have ever met. He doesn’t know any differently and perhaps thinks that silence is just life. He will never know or hear his name being called or hear other dogs bark at him or be afraid of the sound of thunder.
Echo is a special needs dog, and special needs dogs cannot be trained like normal dogs, therefore making their assimilation into a family or pack challenging. A special needs dog requires just that, special needs.
Adopting Echo made me realise that however much I thought I knew about dogs, I still had so much more to learn. Here’s his story.
Echo was found tied to a pole in Kajang by a young girl who could not bear to leave him there. Apparently, his owner contacted her a few days later after seeing her post on Facebook asking for the dog back. She refused. Good girl! The owner told her that Echo was tied up because he wouldn’t stop barking. No matter what his owner did, he wouldn’t stop.
When Echo was rescued, he was immediately put up for adoption. At four months old, he was probably one of the cutest puppies you’ve ever seen, playful and hyperactive. There was no way anyone would have guessed that he was deaf until a visit to the vet confirmed it.
By that time, he had already been placed with two families and returned to the girl who rescued him. When she called me and asked if I was prepared to adopt him, I said yes. As it happened, David was in KL at the time. However, just when he was about to pick up Echo, she called to let us know that she was going to let a housewife from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur adopt him, instead. According to her, said housewife wanted to ‘try him out for a few days’ before deciding.
I decided to have a chat with the girl who’d rescued the puppy. I inquired about Echo’s history. She told me about his rescue, re-homing, being returned, medical diagnosis and, all the while, taking note of how Echo behaved in each environment he was placed in. They ranged from insecurity and wild barking to frenzied whining, being aloof and deaf, and non-responsive.
Then it was my turn to speak. The questions I asked were:
“Have you ever dealt with a deaf puppy before?”
“Have you educated yourself on what a deaf puppy like Echo needs?”
“Have you interviewed his potential adopters and asked them if they have educated themselves on his needs?”
“Are they aware of the time and patience required to train him and are they prepared to commit to it?”
And, the final, but certainly the most important one: “What happens to Echo if this lady from Cheras returns him? I guarantee you she will.”
Her answer to this last question was a quick, “No, no, no.” Taking a deep breath, she confessed, “Actually, I don’t know, but I don’t think she will.
“Not good enough,” I replied, rather blunt.
Still, she insisted that all would be well. I wished her luck and hoped that Echo would reach his forever home.
Three days later when my phone rang and my screen displayed the rescuer’s name, I knew Echo was being returned.
“Can you please take him?”
I couldn’t help but respond with, “I told you this would happen”
Defeated, she let out a heavy sigh. “Please,” she all but begged, “I don’t know what to do with him now or who will adopt him. I am so sorry.”
I told her that I’d think about it and get back to her as soon as possible. It didn’t take long because seconds after the call ended, I already knew that we would take him in. It was always about the dog. Always.
We met with his rescuers / fosterers back in KL four days later and brought ChelseaBoo along for the first meet. As his rescuer opened her car door and carried him toward us, we fell in love with Echo. He was a docile and timid puppy, curious and unperturbed by everything around him. He and Chels said hello and in that instant, he had a new friend. We were warned that he was uncomfortable in cars and sure enough he was a handful as we ran a few errands before heading back to Ipoh that evening.
By the time we reached the farm he had become visibly attached to David, never taking his eyes off him and sleeping right next to him wherever he was. At first, he barked when David left the house, but eventually didn’t even care as he had 12 other dogs to keep him company. (The number has since grown to 40).
He is this amazing ball of love and affection. As all puppies are, Echo is a bundle of high energy. But what amazes me the most is how he never ever flinches in his sleep no matter what is happening around him. In his head, there is nothing, but silence and peace. He could possibly be the calmest dog I have ever met in my life.
My ever-lasting memory of Echo will be something that we witnessed during his first week at the farm. It had rained heavily the night before and there were water puddles in the garden. Without a care in the world, he played in these puddles of water until there was no more playing left in him. There is nothing in this world quite like the joy and love a puppy has for life. He is our Echo of life and love.
(15 April 2020)