More than 3000 deaf dogs have been saved from potential death thanks to the determination of one Farmborough Heights woman, and all of them have been taught Auslan.
Jai Wilson has been running Australia's only rescue organisation for deaf dogs since 2016, born from her head-strong attitude to stop as many from being euthanized as possible.
Sadly a lot of people don't know what to do when they realise their dog is deaf, despite the cuteness, she said.
Jai said the lack of communication means the dog may be hyperactive (and run for miles) or may become angry or aggressive when frightened, so the owner takes them to a local shelter.
"It's usually just owners that haven't had the time or the understanding to train their deaf dog," she said.
"They get to six or seven months old and they are kind of out of control [so end up surrendered to the pound]".
These dogs really look into your soul.- Jai Wilson, Deaf Dogs Rescue
Jai has been a long-time dog foster mum, but the crusade to help deaf pups began when she was asked to look after Polly - a "crazy" and excited Bulldog - who literally gave Jai a run for her money.
"It was a nightmare ... she was really obese and I didn't think that she could walk very far," Jai said.
"I thought I'd start her walks up slowly ... to try and get some energy out. So I took her to a park near Cordeaux Heights and I let her off the lead. She ran for miles and miles."
After that she quickly realised there were no support or training organisations that could help deaf dogs, so Jai figured she would be the one to champion it.
"You will laugh, I was actually using my own money to save these dogs, pay for their vet bills and re-home them," she said
"After having Polly ... I thought I could help other dogs like her. I started just one-by-one a month and started training, while I was learning to be a trainer at the same time."
From there the Deaf Dogs Rescue Australia became a registered charity that was saving hundreds of dogs each year, all over the country, with Auslan the main form of communication between the animals and humans.
"We've done a lot with the deaf community that follow us and we've got a lot of dogs who have been adopted people in the deaf community," Jai said.
"So their communication is already advanced."
Foster parents and volunteer numbers have gone up and down, but currently there are only two other people in Australia who are part of the organisation - one in Victoria and one on the Sunshine Coast - and a handful of foster carers.
"Commonly deaf dogs are all white, with a spot here or there; they may have blue eyes or different sized pupils," Jai said.
"You can commonly pick these dogs pretty quickly."
Some may not bark, while others "sing or wail like cockatoos" because they're tone deaf - but they all have special personalities, according to Jai.
"Everything I do for the love of dogs, and being able to help one owner or one dog," she said.
"I won't say it's not stressful because it is ... I can just see the potential in these dogs that I know that they will be a great dog."
In recent months Jai had to say goodbye to her own adoptee, George Wilson, who is the poster-boy for a lot of the charity's promotional material.
He used to visit palliative care wards in the Illawarra on a regular basis to cheer up residents with his gentle personality.
"I really hope to change things where people will look at deaf dogs and want to adopt a deaf dog, not just look at them as 'oh, they're deaf, they can't do anything'," Jai said.
"They're actually amazing."
For some time she was running the Deaf Dogs Rescue Australia from a property in Port Kembla, but with no government funding available for her rescue organisation she had to close and operate from home.
I won't say it's not stressful because it is ... I can just see the potential in these dogs that I know that they will be a great dog.- Jai Wilson
In 2023 she hopes to bring back workshops for people wanting to know how to train a deaf dog as well as publish a book.
Currently she runs a Facebook support group for dog owners nationwide, to help them trouble-shoot any challenges.
"Training a hearing dog is no different to training at deaf dog, that's where people are getting confused I think," said Jai.
"You really just need those hand signals to communicate what you're saying to them."
Jai is in desperate need of more foster carers to be able to save more dogs quickly, as they don't cope well in "kennel settings" so can only really be cared for one or two together as a time.
"Deaf dogs really look into your soul," Jai said.
"All dogs can give unconditional love, but if you meet a deaf dog you'll see the difference. They're really human connected."
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