Partially blind and deaf black Lab beats the odds

Black Labrador with vision and hearing loss doesn't need much special care, and is a loving, sweet dog who looking forward to being adopted.
By Christelle L. Del Prete

Bayley the sweet black Lab mix who has vision and hearing loss“Highly adaptable” may not be how most people would describe a deaf and sight-impaired dog. But Bayley’s laid-back, go-with-the-flow personality more than makes up for the senses he lacks. It’s almost as if he has a sixth sense that helps him adjust to new situations faster than some dogs who can see and hear perfectly.

Black Lab with hearing and vision loss

No one knew how well the sweet black Lab mix would fit in at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. With impaired sight and hearing, it could be difficult for him to adjust to a busy new environment. He came from a shelter in Vermont where everyone loved him, but he was always overlooked by potential adopters. Even though Bayley looks much younger than his eight years, potential adopters were hesitant to take on a senior dog with both sight and hearing loss. It was decided that he’d do best in a place where being a bit different is not an obstacle between a pet and a great home.

Special-needs dog's transition and training

At Best Friends, Dogtown caregivers and trainers have plenty of experience working with special-needs dogs. As soon as Bayley arrived in late July, they began helping him make the transition to life in an active setting. Since he couldn’t hear (or see much of) what was going on around him, they wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be confused or anxious, and that he could successfully meet other dogs.

Bayley already had experience with the touch-based training cues that work well for blind and deaf dogs, and he can see well enough to recognize visual cues, so that made everything easier for him. He quickly learned the standard hand signals for “sit” and “down,” and he knows that a thumbs-up means he did something right and he’s about to get a reward. He’s also learning to touch his nose to someone’s hand when asked. That’s a useful skill trainers can expand upon in the future to help Bayley learn all sorts of things to help him get along in life.

A dog's hidden talents

Besides the hand signals, Bayley has proven that he doesn’t need much in the way of special care. He just needs people who understand and love him for who he is, as well as patient doggy friends. For example, Bayley sees best when he’s looking straight ahead, but his peripheral vision is pretty poor. So, if a person or another dog rushes up to him from the side, it might startle him. But overall, Bayley isn’t an easily ruffled dog. He takes life in stride, and he’s incredibly good-natured. He’s gotten along wonderfully with everyone he’s met, including his three canine roommates.

Recently, Bayley revealed a hidden talent: He’s a master at working a crowd. Because he’s so gentle and mellow, his caregivers have taken him to some big events, such as the grand opening ceremonies for the Best Friends Visitor Center in Kanab, and the opening of the new Dogtown Admissions building at the Sanctuary. During the celebrations, Bayley walked calmly and confidently beside his caregiver, stopping every now and again to graciously accept a few pets from attendees.

Bayley the Lab mix is a visitor and volunteer favoriteSomeone’s perfect pet

Back at home in Dogtown, he’s become a visitor and volunteer favorite. Caregiver Rebecca Woodruff says that he’s the perfect dog for Sanctuary tours, and that he walks so beautifully on a leash that even volunteers with physical restrictions can take him out on the trails. But if they just want to sit on a bench, enjoy the scenery and give him some pets, he’s happy to do that, too.

In a matter of months, Bayley has proven that you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect pet.

To bring hope and healing to more animals like Bayley, please support the animals.

Learn more about Dogtown at Best Friends.

Photos by Kurt Budde and Molly Wald

Caring for Pets