Blind and Deaf Puppy Gleefully Explores the World

She lost the genetic lottery but is happy about everything in life.

blind, deaf puppy Lily

Fred Strobel

A little ball of fluff goes careening around my backyard, deftly avoiding trees and fences. She gleefully does zoomies and then stops to roll in the grass.

Meet Calla Lily, my latest foster puppy who is blind and deaf. She’s an Australian shepherd mix who was being given away for free on Facebook along with her siblings. 

Lily is a double merle. Merle is the lovely swirly pattern in a dog’s coat. When two dogs with the merle gene are bred together—sometimes by accident and sometimes by an unscrupulous breeder—there’s a 25% chance that their puppies will be blind, deaf, or both.

Lily is the result of that genetic game of chance.

blind, deaf puppy Lily smiling

Fred Strobel

I work with Speak Rescue and Sanctuary, a group that focuses on caring for special needs pets. They scooped her up, as well as one “normal” sibling who also needed a place to go.

Lily’s sister, Ivy, can see and hear and they both wrestle like mad in the house and the yard. Ivy pounces on her unsuspecting sibling, but Lily dishes it back in full. She is feisty but loving, so playful, and incredibly happy. 

She will snuggle with you (when she’s tired) and loves to be carried, either perched high in my arms and tucked under my chin or sprawled across my forearm like some sort of floofy kitten.

Overwhelming Need

deaf, blind puppy Lily walking

Fred Strobel

I was supposed to be on a fostering break. I had just fostered three puppies that had gone to their incredible new homes. My husband and I jumped in the car after the last one left and took off to visit my parents in Cincinnati.

Just two days later we were on the road again, picking up these little babies. 

Rescues and shelters are overwhelmed right now with dogs in need. Speak took in nine special needs puppies in nine days and the requests for help keep coming in.

Last year 347,000 pets were euthanized in shelters across the U.S., according to Best Friends Animal Society. Right now, there are 100,000 more pets awaiting adoption than at this time last year. The group blames staffing shortages, fewer volunteers, limited shelter hours, and fewer adoption events.

Summer is a great time to adopt. The kids are home from school and the weather means everyone can play and walk outside. But there are lots of people going on vacation which can mean fewer adopters and fewer fosters.

So, we couldn’t say no. At the same time, another Speak foster in town took in one deaf and one vision-impaired puppy and she still had her last foster puppy waiting to head to her new home. So many people are doing as much as they can.

Navigating the World

blind, deaf Lily sniffing the air

Fred Strobel

Lily and Ivy spent a couple of days with my parents, sleeping in a playpen and cavorting around their backyard with my incredibly patient and long-suffering dog, Brodie.

Then it was back on the road to Atlanta where they have made themselves quite at home.

I have fostered nearly two dozen special needs dogs. Most have been blind or deaf, but Lily is now my sixth blind and deaf puppy.

It can be daunting. We work on touch commands to learn to sit, stay, and good job for going potty where you’re supposed to. There are a few bumps as they first map the yard and rooms, learning when to stop just short of the house or the fence or the deck stairs. 

But it didn’t take Lily long to figure out how to race out to the pine straw and do her business, then do a few joyful laps before carefully finding the back door and making a beeline right for the water bowl across the room. She plays tug with her sister and happily jumps on my dog, oblivious to his scary-sounding but utterly innocent play growls.

I admit I love watching her sleep. She sprawls in an utter calm and deep relaxation. Then she wakes up, ready to tackle the world (or at least her toys and her sister) with abandon.

Ready for the Perfect Home

blind, deaf puppy Lily napping

Mary Jo DiLonardo

I am so hopeful, as we just listed Lily for adoption. While pups with no special needs are sometimes adopted quickly, I know that we will need someone special for this special girl.

A lot of people just see the cute fluff or the smiling photos. But the perfect person has to be patient and loving, smart and resourceful. 

I have been blown away by the amazing people who adopted the other blind and deaf puppies who once played and napped where Lily now rules the house. I know there’s someone special out there for her too.

Until then, she’ll be bouncing, zooming, and going on great adventures—a happy puppy ready to explore the world.

You can follow Mary Jo and her foster puppy adventures on Instagram @brodiebestboy.