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Every year, thousands of healthy and adoptable pets enter America’s animal shelters, and many will never leave as they are euthanized due to shelter overcrowding. Some other reasons given for euthanizing are for so called “dangerous” breeds, if they are too sick or injured, or if they have special needs.

In the case of three-year-old pit bull Rosie, it was her disability keeping her from being considered a “desirable” adoption — Rosie is deaf.

When Rosie came into the Nebraska Humane Society shelter in Aurora, she quickly drew the attention of the staff and captured the heart of shelter volunteer Tracie Pfeifle. Since disabled dogs have a harder time getting adopted, Tracie was soon teaching Rosie sign language! Being able to communicate in this way could better Rosie’s chances of finding her forever home.

Tracie began teaching Rosie sign language for basic commands like sit, stay, down, outside, and walk. She also used delicious props to encourage her. “We started using treats and putting the treat up to your face and saying ‘good girl’ with your thumb up and then she figured out how, that we were communicating with her,” Tracie said.

Just like humans, dogs can learn very quickly when an edible reward is hanging in the balance! But for Rosie the pit bull, the greatest reward for her learning to “speak” with the help of sign language would be to communicate with her dream come true … a loving family.

And whaddya know? Along came the Koch family! Cindy Koch was delighted to find Rosie; she says she always wanted a deaf dog because she herself is deaf.

“Because I’m deaf and we want to relate to her and understand how she feels, want to communicate with her through signing, teach her signing,” said Koch whose family all know sign language.

Thanks to volunteers like Tracie and animal shelters acknowledging special needs pets in a positive light, more pets considered “less adoptable” are finding their forever homes!

Image source: theVisionaryAgency/Flickr

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