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
Green 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)
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
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
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 rare.
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 adopted him.
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.