Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hearing Impaired Students Connect With Angelyne, A Deaf Dog

If these photos haven't already melted your heart, wait until you read the beautiful accompanying story about deaf Angelyne's visit with hearing impaired children...

Loveland Students, Deaf Dog Share Instant Connection
By Carl McCutchen, Loveland Connection

When fourth-grader Casey LaTulip walked into Marsha Dorr’s classroom for After School Group recently, she was not greeted by her usual classmates and mentors.

Instead, Casey was greeted Thursday at Monroe Elementary School by 5-year-old Angelyne, an Australian cattle dog, who shared a common trait with the young student.
Angelyne is deaf and Casey is hard of hearing, so the two made an instant connection.

“It let me know that humans weren’t the only ones with hearing problems,” Casey said. “Animals do, too.”

Angelyne was visiting the after-school program, which meets twice a month at Monroe for hard-of-hearing and deaf students, as part of a program where her owner, Greeley resident Eric Melvin, travels around Colorado relaying the story of her life and her hearing loss.

Melvin, who adopted Angelyne a few years ago, tells the story of how he didn’t know Angelyne was deaf when he adopted her, and after finding out, he taught her more than 40 hand signals and nonverbal cues, many of which he displays during his presentation.

“I think when you have something special, you have to get it out there,” Melvin said. “That’s what I’m doing.”

Thursday’s presentation at Monroe was more unique than usual for Melvin because the majority of his audience was deaf or hard of hearing, but that didn’t stop the students, most of which attend Monroe, from enjoying what Angelyne and Melvin had to offer.

In fact, Melvin said it may have helped the students appreciate Angelyne’s situation a bit more knowing that much like them, she has had to adapt to life without hearing.

“A lot of those kids already understand that they might have a challenge they are facing and they might not know how to get past that challenge,” Melvin said. “If they can see somebody else that has had challenges in their life or has overcome that, I think that gives them a leg up. It gives them a little more inspiration; a little more hope to get through that.”

For the students, having Angelyne visit was a treat.

While some students, like Casey, admired Angelyne for her life situation, others, like Monroe kindergartener Harry Reckase, admired the dog’s athletic ability, gloating about how Angelyne could jump through hoops and dance around.

Fellow kindergartener Brandon Wheeler liked how the dog could jump, but was more amused by the fact she chased the light emitted from a flashlight around.

“Angelyne was trying to catch the lights,” Wheeler said, smiling. “The dog jumped on the light and tried to eat the light.”

Monroe kindergartener Jordy Homack couldn’t decide on a favorite part of the presentation with Angelyne, noting that she liked the entire presentation and the dog.

“It was cool,” Jordy said, signing through an interpreter.

Bringing Angelyne into the school was originally Dorr’s idea. She, along with her staff of five interpreters, thought it would be a good experience for the students to see Angelyne and learn her story.

“I thought it would be just great to have this dog come in and his owner can do a demonstration for our kids who are deaf or hard of hearing,” Dorr said. “He made a lot of connections to what our families and our students here go through.”

Dorr said the presentation would not only be a good experience for the students, but would also provide them an educational opportunity.

She was right.

The students not only got a chance to interact with Angelyne, but some of them even picked up on some of the signs Melvin used to direct his dogs.

Seeing the students learn made Dorr feel pretty good about her decision to bring the performing duo in.

“He had interaction with the kids. The kids got to come up and interact with Angelyne during the tricks and learn some of the hand signals,” she said. “The kids loved that.”

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