Monday, January 26, 2009

Deaf pit bull and rescuer ‘meant to be’

Nine months ago Gunther, a local pit bull, was in ominous circumstances. He was homeless, infested with mange and parasites and had a too-small collar imbedded and festering around his neck.

Gunther now has a loving home and has become a contest winner.

Pass Christian Police officer Rebecca Hengen already had several dogs and no intention of adopting another when she got the stray-dog call that led her to Gunther.

“The man who reported him said that the dog had been hanging around for a few days, and no one knew where he belonged,” said Hengen. “With a little coaxing I was able to put him in the front seat of my patrol car. He very calmly rode to the shelter with his head in my lap.”

Hengen said she was taken by the dog’s trust, but was worried his chances for adoption would be slim. His condition was appalling and she said the vicious stereotype of his breed was against him.

The Human Society of South Mississippi’s staff had nicknamed the white dog Ghost; Hengen checked on him daily. On the third day Hengen said the kennel attendant told her the dog was probably deaf.

“He didn’t wake up or start barking like the other dogs when someone came in,” she said. “He couldn’t hear what was going on.”

Although her heart had gone out to the pit bull from the beginning, Hengen didn’t make the decision to adopt him until the following day when she received inspiration — through the comics.

“I read the daily comic strip ‘Mutts,’ by Patrick McDonnell,” she said. “That week Mr. McDonnell was doing a series of shelter stories. On about the fourth day Gunther was at the shelter, a strip ran with a white dog that looked like him. The dog says ‘Sure, I know I’m deaf, but I’d still make a great companion. Just do like I do, listen to your heart.’”

Although Hengen had already given her heart to Gunther, she still wanted to be sure she and the dog were a good fit. Through the ASPCA’s Meet Your Match Program, animals and adopters are assessed for compatibility. Gunther’s assessment showed he is an orange, “goofball” type and Hengen’s adopter survey showed her lifestyle and expectations for a dog would fit best with that type dogs.

“It was meant to be,” said Hengen.

She said Gunther is happy, smiling dog and everyone compliments him on his good behavior. He quickly overcame his hearing difficulty, said Hengen, by bonding with another of her dogs, Maggie May.

“They come inside and outside together,” said Hengen. “If he doesn’t know what to do, he just looks to see what Maggie is doing.”

HSSM staff submitted Gunther’s story for the ASPCA’s Adopt-A-Bull contest and he became a quarterly winner featured on He also won a package of goodies and $4,000 for the local shelter. Gunther is eligible to win the grand prize in April, which could bring in an additional $5,000 for the shelter.

Online voting begins in February on and Hengen encourages all animal lovers to vote for Gunther and support the local shelter.

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