Deaf Dog Shows She Can Understand Commands, But You Won’t Believe How

More Than Meets The Eye

Facebook/Muddy Paws Pet Care Center

Everyone’s jaws dropped to the floor. The dog had been brought in for a routine veterinary examination, and nobody expected something like this to happen. But it turned out that this old, deaf dog had more tricks up her sleeve than anyone could have thought. As her new family learned more about what she could do, they realized how special she really was. And it all started with some online photos and a surprising discovery.


Not What They Set Out To Do

Facebook/Tom Cannone

But when Tom and Jane Cannone were looking to adopt a dog, they had no idea they’d end up with a deaf one. The couple, who lives in Norfolk, Virginia, wanted to get a pet and started searching online for dogs up for adoption. There is never a shortage of dogs looking for a home, but the Cannones wanted something special. They both like big, gentle dogs, so they thought about getting a Boxer. And that’s when they found the Carolina Boxer Rescue.

Rescuing Boxers

Facebook/Carolina Boxer Rescue

The Carolina Boxer Rescue is a rescue organization dedicated to helping stray, abused, impounded, and owner-surrendered Boxers by placing them in foster and permanent homes. Though they mostly cover North and South Carolina, they also work in some parts of southern Virginia. Their shelter in Hampstead is about four hours away from the Cannone’s hometown. But when the couple started looking at pictures of dogs up for adoption on the CBR’s Facebook page, one dog caught their eye.


Facebook/Tom Cannone

Boombox was an 8-year-old white female Boxer. She had one black eye and one blue and appeared alert and playful in the pictures. Jane instantly felt like there was something special about this dog, so she contacted the Carolina Boxer Rescue to find out more. When they told her there was no one on the waitlist to adopt Boombox, she was surprised. Surely more than a few people would want to adopt such a beautiful, sweet-looking dog. But then she found out the reason.

Unwanted For Her Disability


Like many white boxers, Boombox was deaf. This is a congenital condition caused by the lack of pigmented skin in the dog’s inner ear, which results in nerve endings becoming atrophied in the first weeks after birth. Even though only about 5-8% of white Boxers are deaf, many end up in shelters because people can’t or won’t take care of a deaf dog. Luckily for Boombox, this was not the case with Jane and Tom.



Facebook/Tom Cannone

Even though she knew she’d have to make special accommodations to bring home a deaf dog, Jane was smitten with Boombox, and so was Tom. So they filled out the application and soon were approved by the Carolina Boxer Rescue to adopt her. There was only one problem: Boombox was staying at a foster home in Charleston, S.C., which is even further from Norfolk than Hampstead. But that wasn’t about to stop the Cannones.

Bringing Her Home

Facebook/Tom Cannone

Jane and Tom made a few arrangements so they could make the road trip from their hometown to Charleston to pick up Boombox. A couple of days later, they were back home with the new member of their family. The couple was pleasantly surprised at how well-behaved she was. Even though they knew nothing about her previous owners, Jane suspected she was treated well because she was affectionate and quickly became attached to her and Tom. Soon, they would also learn something even more special about Boombox.

A Routine Checkup

Facebook/Dog & Cat Hospital

Jane and Tom took Boombox to the Dog & Cat Hospital in Ghent for a routine checkup and to make sure her health was in tip-top condition. Luckily, she was healthy and the vet found no issues. But that wasn’t the only thing that they learned on their visit. When the vet, Dr. Layne Brett, found out Boombox was deaf, she decided to try a little experiment.

Commanding Her To Sit


Dr. Brett turned to face Boombox and made a downward motion with her hand. This was a sign language command that means “sit.” Many dogs are taught sign language, whether they themselves are deaf or their owner is. But, in all her time at the shelter, at her foster home, and in her short stay with the Cannones, nobody had checked if Boombox could understand hand signals. They were about to find out.


She Could Understand It

Michigan Humane Society

Immediately after Dr. Brett made the hand signal, Boombox sat down. Jane and Tom were left speechless. It was hard to believe that an 8-year-old deaf dog who ended up at the shelter could have been cared for enough by her previous owners to be taught sign language. Regardless, they were thrilled. This opened up a whole new world of possibilities in their interactions with Boombox.

A Whole New Facet

Facebook/Muddy Paws Pet Care Center

The Cannones took Boombox home and began to try other hand signals with her. Soon they learned that her favorite command was the one for 'walk.' “When we hold a finger up and motion to her, she knows it’s time for her walk,” said Jane. Though this motion is not part of formal sign language, it is not uncommon for owners to develop their own hand signals for their dogs. Jane was just happy she could now communicate better with Boombox.

Full Of Idiosyncrasies

Facebook/Tom Cannone

Though the Cannones can now give Boombox a lot of commands like they would with a normal dog, she still has a lot of quirks that stem from her deafness. She never takes her eyes off Jane and Tom and relies on her vision and sense of smell to take account of her surroundings. She doesn’t like dark places and hates being left alone - which puts the couple in a bit of a bind sometimes.

Making Sure She's Never Alone

Facebook/Muddy Paws Pet Care Center

The Cannones both work full time, but they didn’t want to leave Boombox alone when they realized she wasn’t comfortable with it. Luckily, they found a doggie daycare called Muddy Paws to take care of her while they’re at work. She gets along fine with other dogs but prefers spending time with humans. And her new family loves spending time with her.


Such A Good Dog

Facebook/Muddy Paws Pet Care Center

When Jane and Tom take Boombox on walks, people are surprised at how well-behaved she is - especially when other dogs start barking. “People ask me how I keep Boombox quiet,” said Tom. “I just tell them that she obeys.” Indeed, one of the perks of having a deaf dog is their obliviousness to annoying or scary sounds like thunder and fireworks. But that is not the reason why the Cannones love Boombox so much.

There's Something About Her

Facebook/Jane MN Cannone

When the Cannones adopted Boombox, they had no idea of the journey she would take them on. But now that they’ve had her for a while, they couldn’t imagine life without her. “There’s something special about her,” said Jane. “She’s so sweet, and I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.”