Saturday, September 12, 2009

Photographer Melissa McDaniel Spotlights Deaf Dogs

Melissa McDaniel is a Philadelphia-based professional photographer with a passion for animal advocacy. She is known for her evocative portraits of shelter dogs and she donates a significant portion of her income to grassroots rescue groups.

Most recently, Melissa has been criss-crossing the country to photograph dogs big and small for her forthcoming books Rescued In America and Deaf Dogs. At least 30% of the proceeds will support animal rescue organizations and Melissa's goal is to sell enough copies to raise $300,000 or more.

For Melissa, the book projects are deeply personal - her own Border Collie/Lab mix, Sadie, was born deaf and surrendered to a shelter as a result. On her photo book projects website, Melissa explains how adopting Sadie motivated her to speak out for deaf dogs:

"...she was saved, but unfortunately, many deaf dogs aren't as lucky. In the U.S., thousands of deaf dogs are put to sleep each year simply because they are deaf. I wanted to bring awareness to this fact, to help dispel some myths that surround deaf dogs, and at the same time, promote the adoption of rescues."

Judging by the incredibly poignant photos on Melissa's blog, Deaf Dogs promises to be a phenomenal book. Copies can currently be pre-ordered at a 15% discount for $42.50. You can personally select the beneficiary of your purchase from a list of 16 shelters and rescue groups, too. I plan on ordering Deaf Dogs now to give at Christmas (hooray for advance planning!).

To hear more about Melissa McDaniel's experience living with a deaf dog, check out this excerpt from from a recent interview:

What challenges have you faced raising a deaf dog?
Not as many as you would think. I use hand signals with her. Dogs need to be able to read cues from others in the pack and so, are very visual animals and can learn hand signals quickly. Sadie picked up the command for "sit" in just a minute or two. She's very bright and has always been very easy to train.

Also, deaf dogs benefit from having a fenced in yard - at least my dog does because she needs a ton of exercise and really needs to run, so having a place where I can have her off-leash safely, to let her play with other dogs and play fetch, chase bugs - her favorite activity - has been extremely beneficial.

Having a deaf dog isn't for the lazy. If she is digging in the yard, or doing something else I don't want her to do, I need to walk over to her to get her attention, since yelling her name obviously wouldn't work. There are a few other minor differences, but in general, she's just like any other dog, and I'm hoping the deaf dog photo book will help show what great companions deaf dogs can be.

What misconceptions do people have about deaf dogs?
People believe deaf dogs aren't trainable. They believe they are aggressive. They believe they can't be a part of a normal family because they are easily startled. They believe they aren't worth saving. They believe they should be put down.

How many deaf dogs are euthanized?
The exact number isn't known, but it is believed to be in the thousands in the U.S. alone. Many dog associations advocate the culling of deaf dogs - the biggest group being the Dalmatian Club of America, which actively promotes the culling of deaf puppies.

As long as breeding practices that produce deaf dogs are allowed to continue, large numbers of deaf dogs will continue to be born. Many of those dogs, called "lethal whites," are born blind, too, or with severe sight problems.

No comments: