Lifestyle & Human Interest

How a Tiny Deaf Puppy Changed One Woman's Entire Life Purpose


I would argue that most of us think we’re in charge of our own lives. Sure, we know things like crime and natural disasters and unexpected diseases happen.

But we have plans, ideas driven by the impulse of our passions and steered by the power of our intellects. Some days, though, I’m not so sure that’s how it works.

Often we almost seem to stumble upon the most important things in our lives, almost as though we were steered there by some unseen hand. That’s basically what happened to Salem, Virginia, resident Christina Lee.

According to an article she published on Deaf Dogs Rock, Lee’s story started with a small puppy — a very small puppy. The dog that would come to be known as Nitro was first discovered abandoned by a riverbank.

He was a boxer, and other than being extremely emaciated, so thin that you could count his ribs, he had one other defining characteristic: He was completely deaf.

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A good Samaritan took Nitro to the City of Salem Animal Shelter, and that was where Lee quite literally entered the picture. She would photograph potential adoptees for the shelter and its director, a woman named Rebecca Custer, asked her to come in.

Lee initially thought that Custer only wanted some more photographs. Instead, Custer asked her for something else entirely: Would she consider adopting Nitro.

“I had three rescue dogs at the time,” she told Bravo. “I wasn’t really looking for a dog, certainly not a puppy, and I didn’t know anything about deaf puppies”

Would you consider adopting a deaf dog?

Lee decided to let her husband be the proverbial bad guy, figuring, “He’ll say no and then I’ll be off the hook. And he saw a picture and said, ‘I think we should do it.’”

That was her introduction into the world of deaf dogs, a truly tragic place that she’d known absolutely nothing about. Most canines who can’t hear have next to no chance of getting adopted.

According to Lee, the majority of shelters immediately euthanized. What’s the reason for such a high termination rate?

People simply don’t want to adopt them. Injured, abused and crippled animals all stand a better chance.

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Or they used to until Lee and her husband started a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about deaf dogs and how to care for them. In addition to teaching basic tips, it lists deaf animals across the country that are available for adoption.

Lee said, “I took one look into Nitro’s eyes, and I thought to myself, ‘There are Nitros all over the country going into shelters, being immediately put to sleep with no chance of being saved.’ It was heartbreaking, and that was the thing that pushed us to move forward. He has totally changed our life. He has given us purpose.”

According to Lee, as of the December 2018, over 500 deaf dogs have been sponsored into special needs partner rescues and over 3,000 deaf dogs have been adopted off their website.

She told Liftable, a brand of The Western Journal, that even though Nitro passed away on Nov. 5, “There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t miss him but everything we accomplish in rescue and advocacy is because of Nitro.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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