A BOXER IS A BOXER
IS A BOXER: DEAF WHITES IN RESCUE
(Courtesy of Claudia Moder of Green Acres
Boxer Rescue of Wisconsin)
By: Claudia Moder
Acres Boxer Rescue of WI
One of my abiding "life theories,"
so to speak, is that all people have equal value. I learned
this while I was growing up, watching my stepfather chatting
amiably with everyone from a restaurant bus boy to Billy Joel.
My mother always put her money directly into the cashier's
hand and didn't toss it on the counter. I learned that the
"right" way to live was to be respectful towards
everyone, regardless of race, income, or level of ability.
Now that I spend so much of my life with dogs, I've extended
this philosophy to my way of thinking about them. Somewhere
along the line I fell in love with the Boxer breed and I feel
I have a responsibility towards all needy Boxers, regardless
of breeding, physical appearance, or (perceived) disability.
Depending on which statistics you read, up to
25% of each Boxer litter is comprised of white puppies. Of
those white puppies, approximately 18% are deaf. Deafness
may be present in one or both ears. A BAER test may be performed
to determine the degree of deafness, but the test is rather
invasive and uncomfortable for the dog. In rescue, we see
a significantly higher than average percentage of deaf Boxers,
because they are much more likely to be dumped. I can say
without hesitation that of all the Boxers I have fostered
in my home, the deaf ones have brought me just as many moments
of hilarity and joy as have their hearing counterparts. I
never think of them as being disabled. When I need to get
the attention of one of the deaf ones, I simply stomp my foot
(to cause a vibration) or flip a light switch. I then use
hand signals to convey whatever it is I need to say. And then,
the odds are fairly good that they'll ignore me just as successfully
as their hearing playmates do.
To me, a Boxer is a Boxer is a Boxer. If a breeder
endeavors to bring a litter into the world, he/she must take
responsibility for each life that is created. As long as he
is viable and healthy, a deaf white Boxer deserves a spot
on someone's couch as surely as his littermates do.
For the record:
· White Boxers are not albinos.
· White Boxers are just as healthy as their colored
counterparts. Boxers are prone to a number of health issues
including cancer, thyroid problems, and cardiomyopathy. These
dreaded illnesses are distributed across the breed as a whole
and there is no evidence that white Boxers are more at risk.
· The only additional health consideration for the
white Boxer is an increased risk of sunburn, as is the case
with many white animals.
· White Boxers are not rare. Beware of any breeder
who tries to sell a "rare" white Boxer at a higher
fee. 20-25% of the world's population of Boxers is hardly
The history of the white Boxer is an interesting
one. At one time, white Boxers were highly regarded and stigma-free.
Most people say that the white Boxer fell out of favor during
wartime, when it was discovered that a white dog was too easily
seen at night and therefore not a good messenger or watch
dog. Eventually, all white Boxers were removed from the stud
books and in time the breed standard was re-written to exclude
them specifically. For many years, white Boxers were culled
(killed) at birth (even today there are breeders that continue
to maintain this ghoulish practice.) Because the breed standard
dictates that Boxers may be fawn or brindle, with not more
than one-third of the coat being white, white Boxers became
a mark of shame for many breeders. Although the American Boxer
Club never directly condoned the culling of white Boxers,
its regulations did not provide breeders a means to sell or
place the whites. Many decades later, the ABC relaxed those
regulations. Today, each breeder is expected to place white
Boxers in good homes with an enforceable spay/neuter policy.
Although white Boxers are just as healthy as their colored
counterparts, deafness is linked with the recessive white
gene and therefore it is essentially taboo (and rightly so)
to breed a white Boxer.
Caesar was my first experience with a deaf dog.
His former owner was moving into an apartment that did not
permit dogs, so he surrendered Caesar to our rescue. Caesar
was one of the most striking dogs I had ever seen. He had
one blue eye and one brown eye, and quite a regal air about
him. At the same time, though, he had the same goofiness that
is so endearing in Boxers. Caesar knew a number of hand signals
and was quite well behaved. I don't recall that he ever got
into any trouble at all in the time that he lived at my home.
One day we took some of the dogs to a "meet and greet"
day at a local Petco store. A couple stopped by and subsequently
fell in love with Caesar. They had not had a deaf dog previously,
but seemed quite willing to learn and to do whatever was needed
to provide a good home for Caesar. A week or two later, they
As time went on, I began to sense that they
had a bit of frustration with Caesar. He was a headstrong
dog and I suspect that he may not have conformed to their
lifestyle as well as they would have liked. Eventually, they
called me and asked me to come and retrieve the dog. They
felt that Caesar was challenging them and they had become
nervous around him. Since I'd had Caesar at my home for quite
some time before he was placed, I felt that he was a "good"
dog and wanted to give him another chance at finding a forever
home. He was just one of those dogs with whom you must be
quite assertive, or he would surely take advantage. If a dog
becomes confused and can't recognize an alpha within the household,
he may just decide that he is the Big Kahuna.
Soon after Caesar's return, I got an email from
a couple that had already adopted a young deaf pup from our
rescue. Michelle and Jason had dedicated themselves to Bella
and had had great success in training her. Although I could
scarcely believe that they would want to take on the challenge
of raising a second deaf dog, I invited them to come and meet
Caesar. Bella and Caesar got along famously and Caesar really
seemed to warm up to the couple. Within a week, they had adopted
Caesar. Today, he is still doing very well and Michelle and
Jason report that they are very happy with both dogs. I'm
sure it is challenging for them at times, but they have told
me that they feel they couldn't have selected two better dogs.
As rescuers, we understand that not everyone
is equipped (or even willing) to raise a deaf dog. We do have
some additional requirements for adopting a deaf Boxer, in
the interest of increasing the odds that an adoption will
be successful. An adopter must take the dog to at least one
series of training classes. We feel that it is imperative
that the dog and guardian learn how to communicate with each
other. There are standard hand signals in place for obedience
training, and deaf dogs are fully capable of learning those
hand signals. We also insist on a fenced yard, or some sort
of enclosure for the dog. If a deaf dog gets a hankering to
run, it is almost impossible to call him back (unless you
have a vibrating collar, which is a wonderful product manufactured
specifically with deaf dogs in mind.) Lastly, we prefer to
place deaf dogs in a home with a hearing dog (although we
did make an exception in the case of Bella and Caesar).
Last year we placed a deaf Boxer named Bandit
with a young couple who already had a female Boxer. Bandit
was originally surrendered to us by a family who said, "He's
a nice dog, but we just can't work with him the way he is."
As if all would be fine if Bandit would just get over this
deafness thing that was inconveniencing them so. Evidently
the breeder had been well aware that Bandit was deaf as a
post, but had passed him off as a hearing dog. I would surely
rather have Bandit in a loving home that wants him than to
think of him living with a family that harbors even the slightest
bit of resentment towards him. Bandit's new family owns a
Harley Davidson dealership and Bandit has a very important
customer service position at the shop. Actually, I suspect
that he just runs around wreaking havoc in the shop, but he's
happy and that's the important thing.
Currently I have a young whippersnapper named
Lily at my home. Lily makes me laugh every single day. I don't
know what is in her feet, but the folks at Nike should check
it out and file for a patent. As I attempt to watch television
in the evenings, there is a white streak bouncing off the
couch, the bookcase, the wall, and so forth. She plays with
the other dogs until, one by one, they tire out and leave
her stranded. The only time Lily's deafness becomes apparent
to me is when I come home at lunchtime to let all the dogs
out. Generally, she is fast asleep inside her crate, whereas
all the other dogs hear me coming from the time I pull up
in the driveway. For the past couple of weeks I've been taking
Lily to some obedience classes. Despite her limited attention
span (she is only seven months old), Lily has already learned
several basic commands via hand signals. Last week, the instructor
put out a low jump. Lily refused to jump until I did it myself,
so we jumped the hurdle together, over and over again. I could
see that the other people in class were pretty impressed with
my performance. We haven't had much luck finding a home for
Lily so far, but we know that the right home will materialize
eventually. Sometimes it saddens me that so many people pass
her by because of her deafness, but on the other hand I wouldn't
want anyone "settling" for our Lilliput.
For those who may be contemplating the possibility
of adding a deaf dog to their family, there are many helpful
resources available. I found Susan Cope Becker's book, Living
with a Deaf Dog to be enormously helpful. There are also numerous
Internet sources, like http://www.DeafDogs.org
as well as a popular email group for owners of deaf dogs.
Lots of people have raised happy, healthy deaf dogs. That
is not to say that everyone has the level of patience required
to train a deaf dog. But I would argue that training any dog
is a bit of a chore. You just have to adapt to a different
way of thinking when working with a deaf dog. I have never
had any formal instruction in how to train a deaf dog - I
just tune into the dog's abilities and go from there.
I find something to love about each and
every foster dog that passes through my home. I loved the
way Evan (deaf) would rest his paw on my leg as I was eating
or the way Kenny (not deaf) would get his lips caught in his
teeth while he was waiting for a treat. Some of them have
wonderful manners, and some of them steal food off the counter.
Some of them give me kisses, and some of them poop in my garden.
But at the end of the day, when I usher them all into the
bedroom for the night, it occurs to me that what I have seen
on bumper stickers really is true - that God doesn't make
mistakes. When I awaken with a jolt in the middle of the night
to extricate a Boxer paw from my backside, I am once again
reminded of how I attached I am to these lovable, clownish,
breathtakingly beautiful dogs. And the deaf ones don't need
working ears to know that.