Roanoke Goes To Dogs for 6th Time

Neil Bussey and with his dog Abbie.

by Beverly Amsler

Elmwood Park went to the dogs Saturday for the 6th annual Woofstock.  The event brings people, their dogs, and various animal rescue groups together for a day of contests, music, and fun.

“[We’re] giving the dogs some exposure, trying to get them some homes,” said Debbie from Angels of Assisi; “To let people know they’re just like everybody else’s dog.  They’re not pound dogs.”

Debi Smith, with Dalmatian Rescue of Southwest Virginia, was at another booth. “We take in dogs that have been left in shelters, get them spayed and neutered first, then vetted, rehabbed, whatever they need, [and] find them new homes.”  She’s been doing it for a dozen years after she fell in love with the breed.

“We met one through a friend and after getting to know that dog, there was no turning back.  I’ll never have anything else.  They’re crazy, goofy, they’re the class clowns of the dog world.”

Several deaf dogs were meeting human guests under the Deaf Dogs Rock tent.  Christina Lee runs the Roanoke group and owns a deaf dog, Nitro.

“When I got a deaf dog and started training him, people started sending me dogs that needed homes that were deaf.  So now we have a website.  We have 400 dogs listed there that need homes that are deaf.  And we give tips and videos on how to train them and resources.  It’s a huge community”

She says they have a large following from people who are deaf and have deaf dogs. Most White Boxers, white Australian Shepherds, Great Danes, white Pit Bulls, American Bull Dogs are born deaf or blind.

The biggest misconception is a deaf dog is harder to train, but “If you’ve ever had a deaf dog, you’ll always have a deaf dog.  They’re very easy to train.  They’re locked on you all the time.  We call them ‘Velcro dogs’, because if my dog lays down, he’s going to lay on my foot to make sure that I don’t [move].”

According to Lee, the training of a deaf dog is similar to clicker training, except instead of a clicker, they use a flash hand signal.  The person is like a human Pez dispenser for awhile.  If the dog looks at her, it gets a treat, so he’ll look at her frequently.  Not having any noise distractions makes it easier to train but they feed of the energy off their human.

Neil  and Tiffany Bussey and their 6-year-old Great Dane, Abbie were taking in the sights and sounds.  They’ve been coming to Woofstock almost since the beginning.  Tiffany says they came, “Just to support all the great charities that Woofstock supports and to get Abbie out for a little while to see all her friends.”

“There’s always something new and different and there’s always great contests and the food’s good and there’s always great vendors.”

Vinnie, an 8-month-old miniature Australian Shepherd owned by Cassandra and Allan Saunders of Salem, made a painting with his paws at the Dalmatian Rescue tent.  “He’s having lots of fun,” says Cassandra  “It is a perfect day to be out and about and he’s making lots of new friends.”  It was their first time at Woofstock and the Saunders say the event was great socialization for their dog.

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