What is a double merle?
A double merle, sometimes called a “lethal white”, is a dog who was bred from two dogs with a merle patterned coat (see photo), such as some Australian Shepherds. There is a dominant (not recessive) gene in merle dogs that links together to cause vision and hearing impairments in the puppies from such a breeding. Sometimes the puppies can be blind AND deaf. These puppies are usually white, which is what the term “lethal white” refers to ( ‘lethal’ refers to their increased chance of being euthanized). Please see The White Aussies Project, Wikipedia, and Amazing Aussies of Arizona to learn more.
Why do double merles need the help of a rescue, perhaps more than other dogs?
Merle Aussies should never be bred to each other, and usually these puppies are the result of irresponsible breeders, who are ignorant of this common genetic occurrence. Breeders know they can sell merle puppies at a high price because they are in high demand. Any “un-sellable ones” are euthanized, dumped, given away or sometimes even sold at a reduced price with no disclosures. Many of the double merles who end up at Aussie Rescue were given to unsuspecting people without any indication of a vision or hearing impairment, or were taken in by a good samaritan who wanted to prevent them from being euthanized.
Aussie Rescue San Diego’s message about double merle dogs
Aussies are our passion and helping those with special needs is so inspiring. We at Aussie Rescue love our double merle babies but we often get them after unfair things have happened to them. Sadly, more than we ever could imagine are euthanized. Why would someone do that? Well usually it’s irresponsible breeders. They can sell the merle pups at a high price because they are in high demand. Any “un-sellable ones” are euthanized, dumped, given away or sometimes even sold at a reduced price with no disclosures. Grrrr! Many of the ones we get were given to unsuspecting people without any indication of a vision or hearing impairment or were taken in by a good samaritan who wanted to prevent them from being euthanized. Thank you! Their hearts are quickly touched and then they worry about finding a home that’s good enough for them. It’s not just about helping the poor puppy, it’s about leading and guiding them through the rest of their life. They need skills to cope and function well in everyday life. For those that have lived with a dog who does not have full use of their eyes and/or ears, you know how wonderful they are! And how wonderful they make you feel. We have received some pretty fabulous stories of your accomplishments and enjoyment together.
You don’t need to feel sorry for double merles, or other special needs dogs
When we share the stories. of these pups (see below), we hear “Oh, poor baby”…”Is it hard to live with a deaf dog?”…”I feel so sorry for him/her”. Sometimes we have to grin and bear it and remember that the kind person talking with us means well just doesn’t understand. These puppies are just as smart and remarkable as the ones who can see/hear. There is no reason to feel sorry for them. They are truly equipped to be great doggie companions! In fact, they often make us better doggie owners. Of course, the biggest challenge is making sure that they are the right fit for your lifestyle, but isn’t that the case with any dog/pup?
We hope that you will help us educate people to never breed merle dogs together (How about not breeding at all?!) And we hope this information helps others step up to be better doggie parents. Amazing Aussies in Arizona does a fabulous and generous job of helping double merles, please visit their site to learn more about these dogs.
Living with and training a deaf dog
Loving and living with a deaf dog is not easy or even possible for everyone. It is certainly not for the lazy couch potato or the person who is reactive to events or even the person who is always busy doing something else. You can’t run around behind them saying “No! No! Oh nooo!” (Those of you who have a deaf pup are probably laughing right now remembering the first time you tried that!). As with any dog, but especially the deaf dog, you need to be proactive in setting the dog up to do what you’d like him/her to do. It’s pretty easy, actually. Want the dog to do something like come to you? Get his/her attention and then ask for them to come. Reward him/her when they do! It’s so easy, it’s hard. We use simple hand signals; the same hand signals we use for our other dogs. It’s important to use gestures that are natural for you, so it’s easy for you to be consistent. It is a language! For more info on hand signals, visit deafdogs.org, a very helpful and informative website.
For a laugh, here is some deaf dog humor from Yahoo’s Deaf Dog mailing list.
Aussie Rescue’s Double Merle Touching Stories:
Leah and Andy are 12-week-old puppies who came to Aussie Rescue in February 2014. They will be about 45-55lbs full grown. Their breeder wanted to euthanize them and somehow a groomer saved them and gave them to a vet to keep safe until homes or rescue could be found. They are the most AMAZING adorable puppies!!! Both are deaf but it doesn’t hold them back at all! They love people and other dogs. They have not met a kitty yet. They don’t need pity or sad feelings…Be proud of these pups and in awe of their greatness. They appreciate it 🙂 You may be tempted by their cuteness, but living with a deaf dog takes a lot of time, focus and diligence. For more info on living with a deaf doggie, visit deafdogs.org. Please contact us if you are interested in adoption and think you will be able lead Leah or Andy, to provide a good home for one of these pups, and to train them to be self-sufficient and think on their own.
Sweet Willow is a 1 1/2 year old female, double merle Aussie, and is still waiting for her forever home. Her foster mom reports, “I can NOT say enough about how beautiful and sweet Willow is!! I’ve had a house full of guests all weekend and they ALL fell in love with her!! She gets along GREAT with her foster brother and sister and is very respectful of my older cat (likes to chase my little cat who runs so she chases). She is super sweet, playful and is such a joy to have! I would love to find her the perfect forever home!” Willow is deaf, but has most of her vision. She is spayed, up to date on vaccinations, and microchipped. Willow is supper cuddly and a true lap dog! There is nothing better than snuggling with her people. She is a very attentive and smart girl. She gets along well with other dogs and enjoys visiting the dog park. She walks well on leash, but needs to build some confidence with scary things like passing cars and bikes. If you are interested in giving this sweet girl a loving home and helping her build her confidence, please contact us.
Billie and Bonnie were rescued from a distant California shelter. They are Aussie/Collie mixes. We received many emails about them being in danger of being put to sleep but upon calling discovered that they weren’t even available yet and the incorrect info had generated hundreds of calls. The shelter felt they did not need our help. We left our number just in case. The next day we received a revised email blast announcing that one of the four pups was deaf and possibly vision impaired. We called again and also notified the email blaster that we were willing to help. Again many people who were scared of them being put to sleep had offered to help. The next day we received a call. It was decided that maybe it was best to place these two with us. These two adorable pups who had been listed as 8 weeks old were actually almost 4 months old. Billie and Bonnie were found along with two of their siblings, roaming a field and eating trash. They were all shy around people. Billie was thought to be completely deaf but actually had severe hematomas in both ears, which required surgery. Afterwards, we discovered that he COULD hear some. Both he and his sister had limited hearing and loss of vision in one eye. Bonnie also needed socialization training. Bonnie and Billie were both adopted by loving families and are doing very well.
Goose came to us one holiday season at only 9 weeks of age. We received an email about a pup needing help. His owners produced a litter of puppies that they sold, and they were planning on giving Goose away on Craigslist for free. (Free Craigslist dogs often end up research projects, or bait dogs, or worse!) A neighbor stepped up because he knew “the dog had disabilities”. Even though we don’t think of Goose’s being deaf as a disability, we are thankful that this man reached out to his local Aussie Rescue, who worked with us to help transport this baby over 5 hours to San Diego. Those who helped transport can tell you that just because a pup is deaf doesn’t mean they don’t bark and cry. He sang quite a song! Once he got to his foster home, he decided he didn’t want to leave! Luckily, they felt the same way. He was given his name because he is our co-pilot, guiding us as we grow. Goose has helped us find homes for other double merles who have hearing and/or vision limitations. He continues to help educate people so that his escaped future doesn’t happen to other pups. He also helps train people to be proactive and focused on what they want their dogs to do instead of reacting to what they don’t want to happen. Thank you Goose!
Ziggy was sold by a breeder to a young couple who crated her in their apartment while they worked all day. The breeder neglected to mention that she was deaf. Ziggy was turned into a North County Shelter because her new parents received too many noise complaints and had difficulty training her. We were more than happy to take this sweet girl. She came to us at about 4 months of age and was highly receptive to training. No problem house-breaking her either! If you go to any local San Diego dog parks or dog events, you will probably meet Ziggy, now named Frankie, with her big Aussie brother, Tobias. She is now a certified service dog and is one of our best representatives. We are very lucky to have been included in her life! Thank you Sandra Rodriguez and Leo Lee for adopting this angel and giving her such an amazing life!
Zeus was 9 weeks old when a concerned good citizen found him in a pet store that was going to have him put down due to his hearing and vision problems, and they found a friend to adopt him. When Zeus was a 6-month-old puppy he was turning into a beautiful 45 pound lap dog that loved everyone, but unfortunately, Zeus’s new cat siblings didn’t appreciate his enthusiasm for cats, and the smaller dogs in their home thought he was too rambunctious and unaware of his growing size. Fortunately, this family turned to Aussie Rescue to help find a new home for him that would be a better match. Zeus is a very sweet and playful. He loves to play fetch and chase Frisbees. He is about 95% deaf. He can hear clapping and other loud noises. Aussie Rescue found a new home for Zeus, who is proud to report that Zeus recently graduated from his first obedience course, and is going on to agility training and the advanced “canine good citizen course”. He knows quite a few “signs”, and is always eager to be a part of whatever task he’s given. Zeus’s family says: “I wasn’t sure what to expect when we started this journey with Mr. Zeus, not having any experience with a deaf or disabled pet. He has never once been too much to handle. Adopting Zeus was by far one of the best pet decisions ever made. I highly recommend pet adoptions to everyone/anyone I know looking to add a pet to their family. He is so amazing, and we really LOVE having him in our lives.”
To see a fun photo/video montage of Zeus’s new life with his adopted family, click here.
Monkey AKA Angel
A very kind family was at an animal shelter in Orange County looking for their cat who had escaped their home. As they were waiting for the gates to open, a man came to turn in a white Australian Shepherd puppy. He said that he bred the mom and all the puppies came out blind or deaf, but this one was “the worst one.” The other ones he said he could still sell. It was so sad that the family couldn’t let her be put to sleep, and brought her home. They reached out to Aussie Rescue to help find the best home possible for this special girl when she was 9 weeks old. Monkey AKA Angel was adopted out to a wonderful family with other dogs and children. They ADORE her and she has been a very good girl.
Pearl was turned in with her siblings because they were “not right”. Several of the pups had visual and hearing impairments. Although she is deaf and almost blind, Pearl helps her daddy do all the home maintenance and keep everything in good shape. She has attached herself to her Dad, she is his constant companion.
Shiloh is an Aussie mix who was an owner relinquishment because they couldn’t house train her and didn’t have enough time for her. At her foster home, she didn’t have any accidents. She followed her foster siblings out the back door and even through the doggie door. She is extremely smart and loves to work! She has been adopted and has been a “Good Girl” ever since.
Razzle is an Australian Shepherd mix. She was 8-weeks-old when we rescued her from the Riverside shelter. She had been turned in alone as a stray. We do not know anything of her history before that. She has been adopted, is well loved and still full of energy.