Local woman trains deaf Dalmatian to understand sign language - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Local woman trains deaf Dalmatian to understand sign language

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Whitney the deaf Dalmatian. Whitney the deaf Dalmatian.
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BAY CITY, MI (WNEM) -

A Bay City woman has been busy training her dog to be a therapy dog. That in itself isn't strange, but what's out of the ordinary in this case is that the dog is deaf and is learning through sign language. 

Jill Chanel's Dalmatian Whitney can't hear.  But that doesn't matter to Chanel, who is a dog lover. She also owns two beagles, one of which is a therapy dog. She wanted another Dalmatian after the one she owned for 15 years died last January.

"They are wonderful and they make wonderful pets, I had no previous experience with a deaf dog," said Chanel, who wanted a rescue dog, and she found an organization out of Pennsylvania that adopts out deaf Dalmatians. 

The goal of that group is to stamp out a terrible tradition.

"The Dalmatian Club of America asks that breeders put deaf Dalmatians down humanely," said Chanel.

So Whitney arrived in Bay City in August. Ever since then, Chanel has been teaching her commands in American Sign Language.

"[I sign] her name, and she does come to that, and I just started out by instead of spelling her name I do a "W "for Whitney and then I touch my chin for honey, I added the two together," explained Chanel.

Whitney is moving right along in her education and recently she passed her "canine good citizen test."

This isn't just a learning experience for Whitney; Chanel is also getting an education through all this.

"There's a few times I was angry, because she was bouncing off the walls when I first got her," said Chanel. "I had to tether her, she was pretty over the top, so the angry was this and she knows that too."

Chanel does have a radio control vibrator device around Whitney's neck to get her attention on occasion, which Chanel says is for her safety.

"She's still a puppy; I still have high hopes of making her a therapy dog," said Chanel, referring to the animals that comfort young and old, despite having a disability.

As a therapy dog, Chanel would team up with Whitney to visit places like nursing homes.

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