This Special Pup Taught Her New Family That What’s Good for the Goose Is Good for the Gander

September 27, 2023


In June 2022, a one-year-old pit bull with white fur, striking eyes and big, floppy ears was brought to the ASPCA by the NYPD. She had been found tethered in a backyard where she didn’t have enough shelter from the rain. It was soon discovered that Helena, as she was later named, was deaf.

Adoption Center Lead Integrated Care Assistant Megan O’Neill with Helena.

Helena the Fast Learner

When Helena was brought to the ASPCA Canine Annex for Recovery and Enrichment (CARE), she was first examined by their medical team.

“When determining if a dog is deaf,” Dr. Sarah Mantovani says, “I usually have someone distract them and then drop a really loud metal bowl somewhere else in the room and see if they turn towards it. That may not sound very scientific, but you have to present a startling noise that doesn’t also produce wind or stimulate any other of the senses.”

A few months later, Helena was moved to the ASPCA Adoption Center (AC) where she could begin her journey to find a loving home. While there, the AC’s behavior team also spent time working with Helena, where they prepared a plan for her future adopters, who may not be familiar with interacting with deaf dogs.

“One of the biggest challenges when adopting a deaf dog is learning how to communicate with them,” says Adi Hovav, Senior Manager of Behavior. “We rely so much on our voice when communicating with dogs, it can sometimes be hard to shift to using body language alone. The good news is that dogs are excellent at reading our body language, so they quickly pick up on cues. With Helena, we taught her different hand signals for basic cues, such as sit, stay and down.”

After finishing her medical treatments, showing off her skills to the behavior team and working closely with the AC Integrated Care Assistants every day, Helena was ready to find her family!


A Not-So-Wild Goose Chase

In October, Ashlee G. was searching for adoptable dogs in New York City when she stumbled on Helena’s profile.

“My husband and I unfortunately lost our 12-year-old Dogo Argentino to old age,” says Ashlee. “We still had our Boston Terrier, Phoenix, and it was very clear to us that we loved living in a two-dog household. While we considered purchasing from a breeder, we were acutely aware of all the loving dogs that didn’t have homes, so the more we thought about it, we knew adopting was the right thing to do!”

When Ashlee saw Helena’s profile, she knew it was love at first sight, and was even more intrigued when she saw that Helena was deaf. She raised Phoenix, who is also deaf, from puppyhood, and she was aware of the misconception that living with a deaf dog is substantially harder.

“I knew she may have a harder time being adopted,” Ashlee says. “When my husband, Phoenix and I all went to meet her in person her energy was radiant, and we only needed five minutes to know she was the perfect addition to our family.”

Helena had found her perfect family and a perfect new name—Goose!

Helena, now Goose, alongside her new sister, Phoenix.

New Home, New Challenges

Goose made herself right at home, and it was clear to Ashlee that she was eager to settle in. Since she was their first adopted dog, they were also anticipating some surprises in the first few months.

“We didn’t have an understanding of how Goose’s previous owner trained her as a deaf dog, so we expected there to be some challenges communicating,” Ashlee says. “However, with patience, we were able to establish clear communication and house rules with her within the first three months. She was eager to learn and please—she just needed some guidance!”

Goose also showed some signs of separation anxiety when left home alone, but thanks to her very understanding family, she was able to thrive and successfully adjust to her new life.

“We can now leave Goose home unattended,” Ashlee says, “free to roam and with our trust—and she trusts us to return! She is also very well housetrained and lets us know if she has to go.”

Now that Goose has truly become an inseparable family member, Ashlee says that their lives have forever been changed!

“We can’t imagine our lives without Goose. She is such a unique, overly loving and energetic dog who loves her pack with all her heart.”


A Week for Unique Dogs

This week marks Deaf Dog Awareness Week, and it’s a time to reflect on the dogs we know, or those we haven’t met yet, who don’t experience the hearing world the same way as other dogs. Deaf dogs don’t let their disability slow them down,  and anyone can be the special adopter that they are looking for! Thanks to Goose and Phoenix, Ashlee knows this firsthand.

“Deaf dogs learn to respond to hand signals very quickly,” Ashlee says. “Goose can do all the commands and tricks that our other dogs can. Deaf dogs are very attentive and typically want to stay by you.”

Ashlee is often asked what living with two deaf dogs is like, and her answer is always the same: “You’d be surprised how similar it is to having a hearing dog! You will enjoy your lives just the same with them.” 

Though any dog can come with challenges, Goose’s new family took her in with love and understanding, and being deaf is just one of the many interesting things about her!

“Goose has taught and reminded me of so many life lessons,” Ashlee says. “With true, unconditional love and patience, relationships will flourish. And to enjoy every day to the fullest!”