A deaf dog from Cumberland County, New Jersey, was recently named the 2023 ASPCA Dog of the Year, the Press of Atlantic City reports.
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ASPCA honored the dog named Cole, who is a rescue Pit Bull, with the award on Oct. 12. His owner, Christopher Hannah, adopted him from a shelter nearly seven years ago. Cole was born deaf, a disability that made him face rejection from potential adopters. However, Hannah knew immediately that Cole was the dog for him. Recalling the adoption experience, he said, “I walked into the waiting room and had my heart stolen, and the rest is history.”
Deaf dog inspires school children
Cole’s impact on people’s lives over the years has everything to do with him receiving the award. He currently works alongside his owner at the Dr. William Mennies Elementary School, where Hannah is the music teacher. While there, Hannah uses Cole’s deafness to teach students virtues like self-acceptance, confidence, and kindness. More importantly, Hannah teaches students the importance of accepting those in society who were born different. “I want the kids to know we should celebrate our differences,” Hannah said.
Interestingly, the entire school voted on the dog’s name. “Cole” was the clear winner after Hannah explained why it was one of the choices. Sharing, he said, “It’s from the movie ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus.’ The music teacher in that movie had a deaf son, and his name was Cole.” Hannah continued, “This movie…inspired me when I was becoming a teacher, and it still inspires me with what I’m doing now.”
Moreover, Cole is a certified therapy dog. As such, he works with veterans, at-risk teenagers, persons with disabilities, and people receiving hospice care.
Cole’s win came as a surprise to owner
Hannah often reminds people that Cole’s “superpower is not his deafness,” but rather his ability “to feel people.” So, when the ASPCA reached out to him regarding Cole’s victory, Hannah was speechless.
“I literally had no idea how to process this. We asked them how Cole was chosen because this wasn’t something Cole was nominated for, or we didn’t have his fans voting.”
Senior director of events for the ASPCA, Jessica Lanzetta, knew, without a doubt, that Cole deserved the award.
“Through his work as a certified therapy dog, Cole the Deaf Dog has helped countless people view their disability as a superpower, promoting inclusivity, courage, and kindness,” Lanzetta shared. “Cole’s story inspires us all to make the world a better place, and he is a testament to just how powerful the human-animal bond can be.”
According to Hannah, having a deaf nephew prompted him to adopt Cole. To learn more about this ASPCA dog of the year, visit colethedeafdog.com.