This world is full of special dogs. Some dogs are special because of how they look or act and other dogs are special for making the world a better place. Keller, a double merle dog, is an extra special girl who works hard to help spread awareness about merle and double merle dog breeding. Keller is vision impaired and deaf as a result of having two merle parents (making her a double merle), which is an irresponsible breeding practice used to create dogs with the desired merle coat. Although Keller is vision impaired and deaf, she can do a lot of things that most “normal” dogs can’t! Keller is an accomplished agility dog and knows over 25 commands, all communicated through hand and touch signals.
Keller took some time out of her busy day being an advocate for double merle dogs to explain to us what a double merle dog is and why dogs that are vision impaired and/or deaf make wonderful pets and friends.
Keller, what is a merle dog?
Merle is a cool looking pattern that can be seen on the coat of some breeds of dogs, like my sis, Kai. [See image above of Kai (L) and Keller (R).] It makes the coat look marbled or speckled and is very pretty. People like it a lot so it's really popular. We see it in many breeds like mine, Aussies, Border Collies, Dachshunds, Great Danes, Shelties, and sooooo many more!
So what does it mean if a dog is a double merle?
If a dog is a double merle, like me, it mean that they have two merle parents. Normally a dog should have one merle and one non merle parent so it just gets one merle gene. In a double merle, it gets two. When it gets two of the genes, it can come with some consequences.
What kinds of health complications can occur as a result of double merle breeding?
I think I'm pretty healthy! But I guess my ears and eyes don't work the way they should. I can't hear at all and my eyes are pretty weird too. I think a lot of dogs like me also can't hear, and some can't see. There are even some who can't hear or see, but they're pretty cool too!
If a double merle dog is born with impairments, what typically happens to the dog?
I can only speak from my personal experience, but I was going to be killed. This isn't uncommon and it's very sad. If we do get to live, we're often put into shelters or rescues.
What would you say to breeders or people thinking of getting a dog from a breeder?
Make sure you know your stuff, whether you're making babies or buying babies! It's so important to just have an understanding of what you're doing and supporting.
Does being deaf and blind have any affect on your life?
A little, but not much. My Ma does a lot of weird stuff like jumping around in the yard while I'm sniffing something good. Other than that, I do normal stuff! I like to do tricks and different commands. My Ma uses her hands, but she doesn't with my sis so I don't know what that's about. I have to go see a special doctor once a year to check my eyes, but other than that, I do everything my sis does. I even do agility!
What is Keller’s Cause? How do you help raise awareness for merle-to-merle breeding?
Keller's Cause is this really cool thing my Ma named after me! She must really think I'm cool because now my name is on a lot of things. I get to go to different events with my friends who are like me and we meet a ton of people. We do tricks and commands and give them hugs and kisses. I think people really like seeing us because we're a little different. Most people don't even believe we aren't "normal."
What advice would you give to someone looking to adopt a dog with hearing and/or vision impairments?
Calm down! I know my Ma was terrified when she brought me home, but I think she did a good job cause I turned into a nice girl! I know we seem so different and scary, but we are just as smart as our hearing or seeing counterparts. Sometimes we are even easier to train because we don't know about the distractions around us. There are tons of people out there with dogs like me, so you are not alone!
How can people help support or adopt double merle dogs with impairments?
There are so many ways! We are dedicated to educating about these dogs and try to attend as many events as we can, so we are constantly in need of support. Also, there are a lot of great people out there who do nothing but save dogs like me. Two really great places to look into are Speak for the Unspoken in Ohio, and Double J Dog Ranch in Idaho! Both rescues do an amazing job and are always in need of donations, foster homes, and forever homes!
By Sara Stuart