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A photographer sees the beauty in deaf pets


pit bull, dog adoption, adoption photo

Keller, a rescued deaf Bull Dog/Pit Bull mix, shows her comedic flare. Melissa McDaniel, (c)2009

It’s Deaf Dog Awareness Week and we’re happy to bring you an interview with Melissa McDaniel, an avid deaf-dog advocate and blogger, as well as photographer for The Photo Book Projects, a stunning series of soon-to-be-published books calling attention to deaf and rescue dogs.

(Don’t miss the great giveaway at the end of this post!)

What is the purpose of The Photo Book Projects?

I wanted to do something to raise awareness and money for deaf-dog advocacy [and rescue] groups and to show these dogs for the beautiful animals that they are. In many respects, deaf dogs are just like hearing dogs. [My deaf dog] Sadie has a great life. She has no idea she’s deaf and if she does, she doesn’t let it hold her back. Humans could learn a lot from deaf dogs.

What inspired you to create the books?

My dog Sadie is a deaf Border Collie mix that I adopted. Her mother was deaf and she passed this trait along to the puppies. After getting Sadie, I learned all about the issues deaf dogs face, including the horrible statistic that thousands of deaf dogs are put to sleep each year simply because they are deaf.

Why do you think deaf dogs are singled out?
There are many myths circulating about deaf dogs, including that they are untrainable, dumb, stubborn and aggressive, and these just aren’t true. Many of the dogs appearing in the books are better-trained than most hearing dogs I know and some are even therapy dogs and/or compete in agility.

Are all the photographed dogs rescues?

Yes, all deafies are rescues. Breeders can’t sell them since
they are “damaged.” Some in the book have come from shelters. Some
have come from rescues. Some have come from breeders who let them go
for free because they wanted to get them a home rather than put them
down, and some were saved from breeders who were
going to put them down.

What’s the story of Keller (pictured)?
Keller came from a no-kill shelter in Alabama. She spent most of her life [there] before finding her forever home.

She’s very cute. Is she representative of other deaf dogs?

Isn’t she adorable? I love that dog. She is a typical deaf
rescue in that she most likely was abused. The owners don’t know the
dogs are deaf — they think the reason the dogs aren’t responding to them
is because the dogs are stupid or stubborn. This, unfortunately, often
leads to their being abused.

Have you encountered anything unexpected since starting the books?
I think my biggest surprise was to find out what wonderful dogs pit bulls and pit mixes can be. In fact every one that I met was just so sweet and so eager to please.  They don’t deserve what is happening to them. It’s tragic.  I really want to get this message out.

You mentioned you want to raise money for rescues. How?

I will be giving 30% of the book price to various rescues
and shelters across America. Most are small rescues and shelters that rely almost
solely on volunteer and donor support. I want to support them the
most and any low-cost spay/neuter program that’s out there.
Currently, I’m raising money through pre-orders of the book with a 15% limited-time discount.

What’s your most memorable story from photographing pets thus far?

All of the dogs and all of the people I’ve been meeting have
just been so wonderful and memorable in their own way. However, I guess
the time Milo, a deaf all-white American Bulldog, decided he needed a
drink while I was photographing him in the park. [He] ran in what was
essentially a mud bog to do it.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

Yes, I visited many shelters while I was on my road trips
and all of them had the same story: The economy is causing donations
to decrease and the numbers of dogs in shelters to increase. They
really need help. If you could donate money, supplies or your time to
help care for all these extra animals, I’m sure the shelters and
rescues would greatly appreciate it.

Do you have a rescued pet? Melissa plans to give one lucky reader a free professional photography session of your pet.
All you have to do is comment on any Petfinder blog post between Sept. 23 and Oct. 23, 2009 with “#photobook” at the end of your comment. Please be sure to include a valid e-mail
address when you post your comment (it will not be seen by the public). One comment per e-mail per day will be counted, so comment

The Melissa McDaniel giveaway is open to individuals living in the continental United States. Please note that the selected rescue pet will not appear in The Photo Book Projects but will receive a one-hour session in their home town with Melissa McDaniel to take place between Oct. 23rd, 2009 and January 1st, 2010. The selected commenter will receive two 5″x5″ and two 8″x8″ photo prints of their pet.  At the end of the specified time, a commenter will be selected by

You might also like:

Member Spotlight: Special attention for pets with special needs

Living with a deaf (and blind) dog: Keller’s amazing story

Living with a deaf dog: An update on Alan

Staff Happy Tail: A friend for Sophie

Visit Melissa McDaniel on Facebook and Twitter:

The Photo Book Fan Page

Melissa’s twitter account

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