Next month, Traci Laursen of Fast Action Dogs and I will be sponsoring Eric and Angelyne, the Amazing Deaf Cattle Dog Show here in Edgewood, March 18 at Fast Action Dogs’ Training Center.
Six years ago my husband and I adopted a deaf Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) named Chama. Dealing with our extremely feisty little pup was a challenge—add deafness to the mix and it was overwhelming. So we went online to find help. One site kept coming up over and over; the “Angelyne, the Amazing Deaf Cattle Dog” Facebook page and website. Via Facebook, I contacted Angelyne’s owner and trainer, Eric Melvin, and he immediately welcomed us to the wild world of deaf dog ownership.
I soon found out that Eric and Angelyne are the nation’s premiere ambassadors of the special bond between owner and a deaf dog. Eleven years ago, Eric, too, did not know how to deal with his new deaf puppy. He, too, looked for help and found none, so decided to develop his own communication system.
Today, 11 years later, Angelyne knows over 63 cues including hand signals, body language, facial expressions, lights, touch and vibrations. Angelyne has the world record of any dog (deaf or hearing) for cues, and her accomplishments will be recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Finally, this past fall, Chama and I had the opportunity to attend an Angelyne show in Loveland, Colorado. We found that reading about their work and watching them in person are two completely different experiences. We saw tears, laughter, oohs and aahs, as Eric presents the story of Angelyne woven with her incredible performance. No one leaves the room without being touched by the story of this little creature that went from almost becoming a negative animal shelter statistic to a confident, intelligent dog.
Angelyne has an unusual coloring, with purplish-brown markings on cream fur and oddly-colored eyes. That plus her deafness serve as a jumping point for discussing individuality, diversity, prejudice, love, companionship and overcoming life’s obstacles. I know these seem like “heavy” topics, but watching her charming performance you find that these are issues affecting us all. I saw that many of those attending the workshop stayed afterwards asking additional questions and sharing their own experiences.
I also helped Eric set up and tear down their show, so I was able to see Angelyne “behind the curtain.” Once that metaphoric curtain rises, she becomes the total professional. She sits up on her chair watching Eric’s every move. The connection between the two is almost palpable. One small movement of his hand and she is tearing across the room to jump up in his arm, plant him a big kiss, jump through hoops, and interact with the participants. I brought Chama to the show and was concerned that she would be a distraction, but nothing interrupts Angelyne’s concentration. Eric’s commands are crisp and clear, and Angelyne’s responses are immediate.
After the show, Angelyne patiently sits while participants come by and pet her, hug her, and even cry on her fur. Eric then packs up all their myriad equipment and once again Angelyne turns into just a plain “dog.” The show is over and she can relax. She runs around playing with her ball, jumping in and out of the car, nipping and playing with Chama.
We all know that dogs’ lives are short. As Angelyne ages, her popularity increases. She is now almost 11 and is working harder than ever. This year is her farewell tour. In March she will be giving presentations throughout the Southwest and we are fortunate to have her and Eric come to Edgewood.
The show will be March 18 at 5 p.m. at Fast Action Dogs Training Center in Edgewood. Tickets are $5 and $2 for kids. To learn more, visit amazingangelyne.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.