A puppy which was given up by his owners because he was deaf has found a new home after being taught how to understand sign language.
Pickle, a three-month-old collie lurcher cross, was handed over to the Blue Cross when his hearing loss meant his previous owners could no longer look after him.
A couple had bought him from a breeder – not knowing he was deaf – and wanted to keep him but the other pets in their home sadly rejected the poor pooch.
Charity bosses stepped in to care for Pickle after he was described as being “overwhelmed and confused” by the world around him.
He was taken to the Blue Cross’s rehoming centre in Southampton where he was fostered by animal welfare assistant Kimberley Simpson.
Amazingly, she taught him how to understand a variety of hand signals – including a thumbs up to give him praise and holding her palm out ordering him to stay.
Soon, Pickle grew in confidence and was transformed from being frightened and timid into an outgoing and mischievous puppy.
Kim said: “I began to train and encourage Pickle, not with voice cues, but with hand signals.
“Like a thumbs up to give him praise. Or communicating ‘stay’ by holding my palms in a certain position.
“Pickle responded incredibly well. Over the next few weeks, this sweet boy grew in confidence.
“With special training, he learned how to cope with the outside world.
“He became more alert and enthusiastic. After the difficult start he had in life, it was wonderful to see him so relaxed and happy.”
He was soon ready for adoption and has now found a loving home with new owners Cathie and Graham Dyne in rural Devon just in time for Christmas.
Cathie said: “He is settling really well and we are readjusting to having a lively puppy after losing our 17-year-old collie just before we found Pickle.
“He’s very rarely still, apart from when he’s asleep.
“I’ve just started having him completely off lead on our local walk and he’s been so good, constantly checking in with me when called [waved at], or of his own accord.
“Today he had two people and two dogs approaching but when I asked him to follow me, he did.”
Cathie says one of Pickle’s favourite pastimes is running off with the laundry and loves his twice daily walks around the countryside and the local beach.
He has even impressed the judges at his local dog show, coming third in both the best puppy and best rescue categories.
She added: “He’s a little treasure. He’s lovely first thing in the morning, especially.
“If he’s asleep and you open the door and just start doing things, he wakes up quite soon after – I don’t know if he can sense you and smell you
“And you look in, and he’s got this real sleepy face and his ears are still floppy and look like the blood hasn’t got to them yet.
“He’s so cuddly, you’ll kneel beside him and he wraps his front legs around your arm and it’s like he’s hugging you back.”
Graham says: “It’s as much about us getting used to him, as it is him getting used to us.
“We’re training each other, really.”