A Little Dog Behind A Big Cause

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Because of Keller's eye abnormalities that result from being a double merle, she wears these glasses during hikes to keep her vision stable.

This is Keller. Keller is a double merle Australian Shepherd. If you don't know what that means, it's okay, we'll teach you. Keller was born deaf and vision impaired as a result of her parents breeding.

Keller came into our lives as a 7 week old puppy with a pretty sad beginning. At 5 weeks old she was going to be shot by her "breeder" because of her disabilities. This made us fall for her even harder and we decided to welcome her into our family.

Keller is now a little over two years old and because of how amazing she is, we have set out to educate people on double merles. So what is a double merle?

A double merle is created when two merle dogs are bred together. It doesn’t matter what color merle or what breed they are. If two merle dogs are bred together, each puppy in the litter has a 25% chance of being born a double merle. A double merle inherits the merle gene twice.

One copy of the merle gene causes a marbling effect on the coat and creates lighter spots throughout the solid color coat. In a double merle, the marbling/lightening effect is doubled and the coat becomes predominantly white. Double merles also have a very high chance of being deaf, blind, or both because they lack pigment where it would normally form.

The pups that do not inherit the gene twice are “normal” dogs. Their coats are normally marked and they are not plagued with hearing or vision problems. The double merles are often killed at birth just for being white, when it is still too early to tell if the dog will have any hearing or vision problems. If they aren’t killed, they are often sold as rare white to unknowing people.

The following breeds carry merle and are recognized by the AKC as an acceptable color: Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Chihuahua, Cocker Spaniel, Collie (rough or smooth), Dachshund (called dapple), Great Dane (harlequin acts the same), Mudi, Old English Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Pyrenean Shepherd, and Shetland Sheepdog.

The merle gene is being introduced into more breeds everyday. The following do not recognize merle as a color or they are not AKC recognized breeds. Merle is now present in Poodles, Bulldogs, American Staffordshire Terriers/”Pitbulls” and Australian Koolies. It’s also being seen in the “designer breeds.”

This gets a little confusing, so we put together a video that simplifies it. The video can be viewed here.

Because of Keller we want nothing more than to make people aware of this dangerous breeding practice. Even more so, we want people to know that these dogs do exist and they do need homes. A deaf or blind dog loves no differently than a "normal" one. Keller proves that every day.

Keller is the happiest, smartest, goofiest, little dog I've ever met. Of course we had apprehensions about raising a deaf and vision impaired dog, but they have all vanished. Keller knows all of her commands through hand and touch signals. She knows about 15 different commands and also dabbles in agility. Training these dogs is no more difficult than any other dog, it just requires a different type of communication.

We hope you'll enjoy our posts and follow along as we strive to remove the stigma around "disabled" dogs and educate the public.

To follow Keller's daily adventures visit: www.facebook.com/kellerthedm


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Positively Expert: Amanda Fuller

Amanda, with her dog Keller, are deaf dog advocates, doing everything they can to remove the stigma around owning special need pets. Do you know what a double merle is? Amanda can tell you.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION
  • Jan J.

    Being deaf or blind does not mean a low quality of life. These dogs have value as much as any other, just as a human would, and they can live a happy and fulfilled life. They should be adopted FIRST because so many have an attitude like yours.

  • ebolaoutkast

    "They should be adopted FIRST because so many have an attitude like yours."

    That doesn't make any fn sense.

    Just because the dog doesn't shrivel up and die doesn't mean its quality of life isn't stifled.

  • Lisa Silvey

    Seriously! It really doesn't matter, healthy or challenged, as long as someone is adopting them! They all need homes!! If a person has the ability, the extra time and money to adopt a challenged dog then more power to them. Adopting a challenged dog is so much harder and takes a special person! Just because a dog has a challenge does not mean it does not have something special. http://southfloridadogtrainer.com/

  • Morgan Griffith

    I had always wanted to adopt a blind dog. I was lucky enough to find Meissen who, while not completely blind, is severely sight impaired. Legally blind if he was a person. He is dog first. He acts like any other dog. His disability is easily coped with but does not affect his personality. I find we rely on his nose and "mapping" abilities. Within 30 minutes of arriving at my house he stood up and walked through the house straight out the front door. I put down mats so he would feel the change of surface to find his way back inside. It is a little bit more challenging on training but only a little bit. Don't hesitate to adopt a dog with challenges. His challenges will become the successes of both of you.

  • Sarah Coberly

    OR a far more reputable source to read from: http://merlecockers.com/ 🙂

  • Sarah Coberly

    DOUBLE MERLES ARE NOT ALWAYS ALL WHITE! Piebaldism controls the locations of white vs. color, not merle. Sad that this is being propagated by someone who is supposed to be educating people about it! A red and/or sable dog may not even look merle at all, but can still be merle/double merle! Do your research please folks! http://homepage.usask.ca/~schmutz/merle.html http://www.lsu.edu/deafness/StrainMerleJVIM2009.pdf

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