A Norfolk sheepdog named Peggy spent most of her life working on a farm and helping her human herd animals from place to place.
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She was great at her job, which requires keen intelligence and the ability to listen to a shepherd’s signals. But everything changed when Peggy suddenly went deaf for no discernible reason.
Peggy was surrendered to the Mid-Norfolk and North Suffolk branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals just before Christmas in 2018. With the shelter full, staffers scrambled to find a foster family for her to spend the holidays with. Thankfully, animal welfare manager Chloe Shorten stepped up to take her in!
Chloe turned out to be the perfect foster mom for Peggy. Not only does she have two other sheepdogs, but her husband Jason is actually a shepherd!
“We decided she could stay with us temporarily while we found somewhere more permanent to take her in, but we completely fell in love with her almost immediately and it soon became clear that she wouldn’t be going anywhere!” Chloe said.
“She was greasy and out of condition, untrusting, and frightened,” the shelter added.
Peggy spent the first few weeks decompressing from the stress of being ousted from her home. She had recently given birth to a litter of puppies, so she also needed time to heal and get her bearings.
“She soon started to bond with me and we started taking her fun places like the beach, something we don’t think she has ever experienced before,” Chloe said. “With some TLC and decent food, Peggy soon started to adjust to life. Several months on and Peggy has blossomed into a wonderful dog who is continuing to improve daily.”
One of the biggest ways Peggy’s new family helped her adjust was getting her back to work. Working dogs are bred to do a specific job, and without a purpose, they can grow despondent and bored. So Chloe introduced the pup to hand signs and taught her to use her eyes in place of her ears while on the job.
“We started by teaching her to look at us for hand signals. We used repetitive and positive reinforcement and instead of pairing a verbal command with an action, we’d use a physical hand gesture,” Chloe explained. “She reads our hand signals and body language as a way of telling what we’re asking for. For example, thumbs up means ‘good girl.'”
These days, Peggy wears a special GPS collar in case she gets separated from Chloe and Jason while working. Now that she’s 10, she’s “generally retired,” but she still enjoys herding and continues to impress her family with how quickly she learns new skills.
“Having a deaf dog is a learning curve but one we are thoroughly enjoying seeing her coming out of herself and zooming around the garden, barking with joy!” Chloe said.
Looks like you really can teach an old dog new tricks! Animals have such a remarkable ability to take obstacles in their stride!
Watch Peggy doing her thing in the video below, and be sure to share this sweet story.
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