This Blind and Deaf Pup Is Defying the Odds to Become a Therapy Dog

Ruby is a true hero.

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Ruby may have been born blind and deaf, but she's not going to let that stop her from making a big difference. She's changing the therapy-dog game, and her loving personality makes her perfect for the job.

After losing their dog Scarlet in the spring of 2016, Erin Baxter and her family weren't planning to get a new pet anytime soon. But after seeing a Facebook post about three deaf and blind puppies at a local shelter, Baxter decided to go to the shelter with her family, she told TODAY.

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At the shelter, Baxter's daughter, Avery, bent down to look at the dogs, and Ruby climbed right into her lap. At the time Ruby was wearing a red collar, which they took as a sign of their dog Scarlet.

"I felt like it was meant to be," Baxter said. "There were so many signs leading me to do this. I couldn't ignore them."

Even though Ruby could not see or hear, Baxter had a feeling that Ruby's affectionate personality would be ideal for therapy work. But she had some qualms.

"My biggest fear when we brought her home was her getting out without a leash or person and her running into the street," said Baxter. "I found the right person willing to put the time in with her."

Enter Rick Carde, a dog trainer at Tampa Bay K-9 Solutions. He was hesitant at first because he'd only ever worked with dogs who were blind or deaf, never both, but Carde eventually agreed to take on training Ruby. But how would he train her?

When they started training together in January 2017, Carde discovered that Ruby didn't respond well to scent commands — a training approach used for dogs that are blind or deaf — but she did respond well to touch.

Carde then developed a system of signals, such as touching Ruby between her shoulders as a signal for "lay down," and a stroke under her chin for "follow." Ruby now wears a vibrating collar that helps guide her by telling her when she needs to stop and sit.

And after working with Ruby for a while — they train together as often as six days a week — Carde admits he got attached. "I keep saying another few weeks. But that was a few weeks ago," he said. "I got emotionally attached to this one."

Carde has also started to develop personalized training methods to help Ruby's therapy skills, such as being able to ignore distractions. Both Carde and Baxter hope to see Ruby providing therapy services for people like veterans with PTSD or even kids like Ruby who can't see or hear.

"She is special and perfect and amazing," Baxter said. "She is not disabled in my eyes. She's just her."

[h/t TODAY]

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