Deaf dog taught commands using sign language

Dog that got a second chance inspires others

NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) - Echo is a Great Dane who lives in Niagara Falls that is working to become a therapy dog. Bad breeding left her deaf, and her owner is hoping her story will inspire the people she'll soon be working with.

Owner Marion Dwyer says Echo was originally with a woman from Louisiana who couldn't handle her special needs and didn't take care of her properly.

"The lady didn't want her after two weeks. She decided it's not worth her time to deal with a dog that's "unmanageable" - or so she said," Dwyer explained. "She posted on Facebook if nobody takes the dog within 24 hours, she was going to be put down."

So Dwyer, who was on her way home from a Florida vacation with her other two Great Danes, swung by Louisiana to pick up Echo. Immediately the three dogs clicked; so much so that Dwyer and her husband call them "the girls."

Dwyer started teaching Echo commands by using American Sign Language. Already the dog has learned the signs for "sit," "down," "food" and "water," among others. And her training is coming in handy. Echo's next challenge is to become a therapy dog because she connects with people in a way many dogs can't.

"We actually met a deaf child when we were out walking at Niagara Falls, and he sat down and he started signing to her," said Dwyer.  

Echo still needs to pass a couple of tests before she becomes an official therapy dog, but Dwyer is hoping that her story will inspire others to see not only what they can accomplish, but what dogs like Echo can do.

"Dogs with disabilities... to me they don't have a disability," she said. "They're just extra special."

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