A deaf dog finds a love story for the books

Cream Puff the dog smiling with tongue out, next to a tray of food
Two hearts align when an adopter and a scruffy, deaf dog meet at just the right time.
By Peggy Race

Nothing captures the essence of Valentine’s Day more than a good old love story. And as in many stories, the protagonist in this one endures hardship before finding love.

That’s how it went for a fluffy white dog named Cream Puff, who landed in a shelter on Valentine’s Day. But since then, he seems to touch the heart of everyone he meets and none more than his adopter, Haley Shackelford. He grabbed her heart from the moment their eyes met, and it’s been a life-changing connection for both of them.

Cupid strikes a scruffy shelter dog

Cream Puff’s pet profile might have read: “Rough around the edges but cleans up nice.” According to Hayley Lampela, the Best Friends staff person who picked up the 13-year-old fur ball from Fulton County Animal Services on Valentine’s Day, he was quite a mess. “The poor guy was covered in flea dirt, had hair loss over his back end, overgrown toenails, suspicious growths all over his body, severe dental disease and visible eye issues,” she says.

Fortunately, the cards were stacked in his favor and life would quickly change for the scruffy pup. To start, Best Friends secured veterinary care to address Cream Puff’s medical needs. The vet assessed the skin issues, drained his growths and did bloodwork.

From there, Cream Puff was referred to an eye care specialist who diagnosed lens luxation, a condition where his lenses had fallen backward into the eye. While being treated with three daily eye meds and weekly pressure checks, Cream Puff also underwent dental surgery to remove almost all his rotten teeth.

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Through it all, the little dog was a real trooper. Once his medical issues were under control, he deserved some pampering while waiting for his new home. The Best Friends team in Atlanta located a great foster home and soon he enjoyed soothing baths, special food and his favorite activity ꟷ hunting down Cheerios

Special needs, special indeed

In the meantime, Haley Shackelford was looking for a fresh start in life. Not only was she grieving the loss of her two 16-year-old dogs (within months of each other), she had just relearned how to walk after enduring her own two life-changing surgeries.

Since her childhood days when her grandmother gifted her a dog, she found that her passion revolved around animals. “Animals are my life’s partner,” says Haley. Over the years, she has made it her mission to make the world a better place. Whether raising money for animal charities or doing therapy work, her dogs have been an integral part of that work. Now she needed another dog in her life, and so the search for a canine companion began.

Haley scoured the internet searching for the one dog who spoke to her. That tug-at-her-heartstrings moment came as soon as she saw Cream Puff’s photo, so he contacted Best Friends to schedule a virtual meet-and-greet.

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“As soon as the camera came on and Haley saw Cream Puff’s little white Muppet face, she started tearing up,” says the other Hayley. With her emotions running high, Haley believed that her two beloved dogs had somehow led her to Cream Puff. She immediately knew she wanted to give him the opportunity to have a life like that of her other dogs.

Without missing a beat, she drove the following day to a Best Friends adoption event. “When she walked through the sliding doors, it was truly love at first sight,” says Hayley.

One front tooth, unlimited love for everyone

Now that Cream Puff has spent the past couple of months in his new home, he has become the center of Haley’s world. “He’s been a game changer,” she says. “It’s like a light bulb turns on when he walks in the room.” Whether visiting with children or the elderly, Cream Puff brings joy everywhere.

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Even though Haley loves taking Cream Puff out to eat or out to visit others, his favorite activity might just be riding in her convertible. Cream Puff sports a big smile while sitting in his beanbag chair with the wind in his face and the warmth of the sun shining down upon him. “I love his smile,” she says. “He has one front tooth and it is so cute when he smiles. People even stop and honk at him. I know he senses the energy of other people.”

Today, Haley is committed to giving him the best life she can. From the sounds of it, that shouldn’t be too hard. “Cream Puff’s got me wrapped around his little paw,” she says. And that just might be the reason she encourages everyone to consider adopting an older pet or one needing extra care. They don’t need much — just a little love.

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