Bachelor of the Week: Inuit!

You guys!

Did you know that many, but not necessarily all, white cats born with blue eyes are deaf? On that note…

Look into my eyes...

Look into my eyes…

May I present, Inuit, the big white cat with the roar of a lion! Inuit roars and roars and roars – because he can’t hear himself doing it, but you sure will be able to.

This lovely fellow was recently returned to Tree House because of his mighty roar, but don’t let that deter you! He’s a wonderful singing partner and, frankly, it’s hard to lose him because of instead of having to call for him, he’ll call for you.

Inuit enjoys long walks on the carpet and fun time with the laser pointer. He doesn’t care what music you listen to, as long as you do it with him in your lap. He loves to touch people and will follow you around the house whenever you’re home. He’s also skilled in American Cat Sign Language.

If you think Inuit is your snuggle buddy, contact Tree House Humane Society immediately! Hurry!



"Would you touch me? I'd touch me." -Inuit.

“Would you touch me? I’d touch me.” -Inuit.

Tips for Training Deaf Dogs

You Guys!

Today we have special guest Rendy Schuchat, owner and founder of Anything is Pawzible in Chicago, Il, to talk with us about training deaf dogs! I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll say it again: my best friend is a dog. While she isn’t deaf (although occasionally she acts like it), we wanted to have a little resource for anyone that was considering adopting a deaf dog. Also, modeling for us today will be Doodle (my best friend), because we don’t have any photos of deaf dogs being trained.

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Welcome, Rendy! Training deaf dogs seems like it might be more challenging than training a dog that can hear. Tell us, what is the most challenging part about training a deaf dog?

Actually, the most challenging part of training a deaf dog is teaching their owners how to shift gears from verbal to hand cues.  Dogs follow body language better than verbal, so attaching meaning to hand cues is what we start with even when the dog can hear!

Yes, I like to blame things on people, too. Are there any tasks that deaf dogs are better at than dogs that can hear?

Once you have their attention, deaf dogs can actually be less distracted because disruptions that an otherwise hearing dog might get distracted by are not present with deaf dogs (buses, kids screaming other dogs barking, etc.)

Training dogs takes quick action to let them know they’ve done something right. How do you immediately tell a deaf dog that they’ve done well if you can’t use a clicker or say “good?”

Before you can teach any dog (hearing or deaf) it is best to attach a “positive marker” that means that was what I wanted! With hearing dogs we use the word “yes!” With deaf dogs, I have used the thumbs up hand cue.  We show them the cue and then give them a treat and continue to repeat until the dog shows visible signs (ears alert, leaning forward, eyes brighten) that they are excited to see that thumbs up signal, which will eventually be tied to exercises we teach.

Perhaps you can walk us through a command. For instance, how do you train a deaf dog to come?

I would take a treat and jog slowly backwards drawing the dog towards me. As the dog began to follow, I would give the “thumbs up” sign and a treat would be given. I would repeat this and begin to shape hand [a] command by pulling the treat towards my chest shaping a hand cue that means “come,” making sure to stop and positively mark the behavior I was looking for. Eventually, we would fade the treat and ask for a sit to finish the exercise. Voila!

Doodle accepting a treat for "Down."

Doodle accepting a treat for “Down.”

Do you ever suggest that deaf dogs be allowed off-leash, either at a dog park or otherwise?

I am not a fan of off-leash unless the area is completely enclosed and safe, especially with a deaf dog. There are just too many distractions you would need to control for which takes individual practice with each of them. If a deaf dogs encounters something that they are uncertain or even frightened by and bolts or spooks, it would be very difficult to get their attention. Many people with deaf dogs will use a vibrating collar in place of their name. It isn’t meant to harm the dog, in fact, just the opposite. We teach the dog that the gentle buzz means “look at me” and something great will happen! These collars could be used in an off leash situation, but lots of rehearsal and practice is necessary before going off leash – and collars we may be relying on to get the dogs attention can fail.

Do you have to teach deaf dogs any special commands as part of their basic training that you wouldn’t otherwise need to teach a regular dog? What are the absolute musts you think a deaf dog must learn as part of basic obedience?

I honestly can’t think of anything a deaf dog must know that a hearing dog wouldn’t. Any command you can teach a hearing dog and deaf dog should learn and vice versa – no limitations!

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she's not deaf, but she looks really cool.

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she’s not deaf, but she looks really cool.

One more question: Besides the buzzing collar, how can you get a hyperactive deaf dog to pay attention to you? He obviously has to be looking at you in order to see the hand cues. Is that ever a problem with dogs that are a little more active or having trouble sitting still?

Hyperactive dogs in general (hearing or not) have a harder time paying attention.  Some of my clients have used a stomp on the floor in place of the collar. If the dog is engaging in a behavior that is undesirable, say jumping up on the counter, the stomp becomes the attention cue and when the dogs looks in your direction a “negative marker,” like a shaking a finger with a stern face, can convey the behavior needs to stop.

I use the stern face command a lot, myself. Thank you so much, Rendy, for helping us learn more about training deaf dogs!


If you live in the Chicago area and would like to contact Rendy about dog training, you can reach her at her website at

img_hs_rendy Rendy Schuchat, M.A. –  Owner/Founder and Head Dog Trainer at Anything Is PAWZible dog training in Chicago, Illinois. I bring my life-long love for animals together with proven positive dog training techniques that both you and your dog will enjoy. With over a decade of professional experience and a Masters Degree in Psychology as well as a Certification in Dog Obedience Instruction from Animal Behavior Training and Associates, I am committed to helping people build and strengthen their relationships with their dogs. I was voted one of the BEST/FAVORITE DOG TRAINERS in Chicago by Chicagoland Tails Reader’s Choice Awards multiple times.







**Edited by Alana Grelyak. No compensation was exchanged by any party for this post.**

Blind & Deaf Senior Levi Finds New Job as Therapy Cat

You guys!

Today, we have an amazing success story that I am so very excited to share! You may recall a bachelor that I featured, not once but twice, who really touched me. Not in any inappropriate ways, of course, but right smack in the middle of my heart. May I remind you all of Levi, the James Bond lookalike who was looking for the perfect home where he could be snuggled, not stirred. Levi wasn’t a likely candidate for a permanent home – not only was he somewhere around sixteen years old (seniors pets are less likely to find homes) but he was also blind and deaf.

tabby's place

“Snuggled, not stirred.” Levi while still at Tabby’s Place.

Luck, however, was definitely on Levi’s side. He was discovered wandering the streets and was scheduled to be euthanized, but fortunately he was swept up by Tabby’s Place and given a grant by the Paws and Claws Society, Inc. for $15,000 to provide for his care. After spending some time at Tabby’s Place, Levi’s lucky streak continued and he was adopted!  And not only did he get a home, a loving hand, and a family, he also got a job!

In one of the happiest stories I’ve come across, I’m so pleased to report that lovely little Levi is working as a therapy cat. Today we have with us Katie Tontala, Levi’s adopter, to discuss Levi’s new life.

Levi in his new home.

Levi in his new home.

Crepes: Welcome, Katie! We’ve heard that not only does Levi have a home, he also has a new job! First, let’s talk about his home.  Why did you decide to adopt Levi? Were you a volunteer or do you work at Tabby’s Place? Or did you just meet him and love him immediately?  

Katie: I would love to volunteer at TP, but I live in Pittsburgh!  I saw Levi on the TP site and followed him for months. For some reason, I just couldn’t get him out of mind, so my friends-probably tired of me talking about him- finally said-“why don’t you just go and get him!”! So I took the road trip to Tabby’s Place and brought him home-sight unseen.  When I heard he was found wandering the streets of Newark-I knew it was fate..I was born in Newark!!

Crepes: Do you have other animals at home? Are any of them special needs?

Katie: I currently have five other rescue cats.  Ginseng- 17yrs old-(she was one of my original cats who I have had since she was a kitten). She has early renal failure.  Jefferson-foster failure. He is 12 yrs old, has behavior issues and is diabetic. Atticus is also about 12 years old and was the first blind cat I ever adopted… and has since also developed a hearing loss. Willow is 16 and I also adopted her last year as a blind senior girl.  Mr Simon, who is about 5 years old, was another foster failure-he is a declawed cat who was going to euthanized because of aggression and big time biting issues. (Two years later-he is now a love bug)  So I guess the answer is yes!  My vets love me!

Crepes: We know that Levi is fairly advanced in his years. He’s going on 16 or so at this point. Was there ever any fear of adopting an older cat? Were you worried you wouldn’t have enough time with him?

Katie: Not in the least! I absolutely love older cats with special needs and advocating for them is my passion. I have written articles and taught classes on the challenges and joys of senior cats.  I am also certified in cat massage therapy so they keep my skills up.  Like anyone who has a family member with special needs, they are your first priority and you work your time around them.

Levi snuggling into a bed.

Levi snuggling into a bed. This guy can snuggle anywhere, anytime.

Crepes: Being blind and deaf, has Levi experienced any problems acclimating to his new home?

Katie: He actually did wonderfully!  I initially kept him in my “foster room” so that he would have a safe place to call his own and I could do the proper introductions to his sibs.  But the little nosey fellow didn’t want to stay in there for long and was soon out exploring the rest of the house. He now hangs out mostly in the living room  and dining room-he has his special sleeping spots, knows where the food and water and litterbox are located, and has no problems.  He is quite the intrepid explorer and loves to climb (much to my consternation)

Crepes: Did you have to change anything about your home to make it safe for Levi?

Katie: Because I have other sensory impaired cats, I didn’t have to change anything-he fit right in!

Crepes: Tell us about Levi’s job! He’s working as a special kitty at nursing homes, is that correct?

Katie: Yes he is and he is quite the little celebrity when he goes. It is rare to find a cat who has the temperament to be a therapy animal-but we all know that Levi is one rare kitty! When I realized how much Levi loves to snuggle and how laid back he is, I thought I would try it out and see how it went. (I had had 2 deaf cats in the past who made great therapy cats)   Animal Friends-the shelter where I volunteer, has a program called “Therapets” and I decided to go through them. My concern was that I didn’t want to force him to do therapy work if  he was going to be stressed by visiting but, as it turns out, he seems to really enjoy the hugs, kisses and snuggles!

Crepes: What does his job entail? Give us a quick rundown of Levi’s day at work.

Katie: Levi currently visits two different skilled nursing homes. We visit the residents and ask if them if they want to meet and pet Levi.  If they do, he sits on their lap or bed and lets them pet and dote on him! He gives them head butts and nuzzles their necks and then usually ends up snuggling into their blankets and falling asleep. Not a bad gig!  The residents tell him about the pets they have had in the past, and sometimes they forget he is blind and they show him pictures (being a gentleman, he doesn’t let on). The benefits-both physical and emotional- are truly amazing-pet therapy rocks!
Crepes: How frequently does Levi go to work? And for how many hours at a time?

Katie: He goes about once/week and I limit his time at the facility to about an hour because I don’t want to tire him out or stress him in any way. He is starting to develop a cult following who wait for him to come on visiting day!

Crepes: Does he really wear the little tie to work?

Katie: His tie is new and he is going to debut it this week!

Levi in his tie

Levi in his tie

Crepes: Does Levi snuggle as much as we think he likes to snuggle?

Katie: YES YES YES!!!! He is the proverbial “Snuggle Bug!”

Crepes: And, Levi, this question is for you. How do you like your new home? And your new job? Do you feel like you won the jackpot?

Levi: Even though I miss all my wonderful friends at Tabby’s Place, I really do love my new home!  My brothers and sisters are wonderful, and don’t seem to mind if I occasionally run into them, knock over their food or nestle up with them on cold nights.  My favorite part of the day is early morning. After I eat breakfast, I find my mom, climb up on her lap, and help her do the morning crossword puzzle while she drinks her coffee.  This is my special time with her and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. My new job is really great-who wouldn’t like a job where you get hugs, kisses, and treats, and everyone tells you how handsome you are! It’s a dream job!

Levi hard at work being snuggled.

Levi hard at work being snuggled.

Crepes: Is there anything else you’d like to include?

Katie: I literally have my choice of hundreds of cats that I could adopt, but I feel that there is a reason why I end up with the ones I have.   Levi is truly a magical cat-I can honestly say he touches the heart of everyone he meets and I feel so blessed to have him in my life.  Who rescued who?

Thank you so much to Katie Tontala, not only for answering our questions and providing photos, but also for adopting Levi and all the other little loves she has at home. You are a shining example of compassion! Thank you for working so hard for senior cats!