When an 11 month old heeler puppy was surrendered at a Texas shelter, the staff’s hearts immediately melted.
The puppy was so cute and sweet, they knew he’d make someone so happy.
However, they worried that the handsome boy might struggle to find a forever family because he was deaf.
While special needs dogs have as much potential to live fulfilled and happy lives as all other types of dogs, adopters often shy away from them for some unfortunate reason.
Luckily, the shelter worker’s worries were about to be swept away.
Keep reading to find out what happened next!
Good Things On the Way
The puppy, who’s name was Rhett, proved to be a good boy in every aspect!
He was sweet and energetic and loved people.
The staff knew that if he were given a chance, adopters would fall in love with him.
It seemed like Rhett was happy to be patient for the right person to come along.
Little did he know, the perfect match was right around the corner.
Love at First Sight
While Rhett was waiting for his forever home, a woman named Karlie Waldrip was on the search for a canine companion.
Karlie was born deaf, and in elementary school she had a deaf education teacher who had a deaf therapy dog.
“She would teach us deaf students all about deaf dogs and did a lot of lessons related to dogs in reading and writing,” Karlie shared. “So, I have always wanted a deaf dog that is deaf like me.”
After graduating college and teaching for a year, Karlie had decided it was time to make her doggy dreams come true!
“I started to look around for deaf dogs needing homes. I messaged rescues, looked on petfinder, craigslist, and shelters,” Karlie said.
Then, when one of her friends sent her a picture of Rhett, Karlie instantly fell in love.
Before she knew it, she was in the car on a road trip to go meet this cute little pup.
A Match Made in Heaven
Karlie was so excited to meet Rhett when she showed up at the shelter, she just hoped he would like her too.
“We bonded instantly. When he came outside, he jumped up for a kiss and plopped down for belly scratches,” Karlie said.
The two shared an instant connection that grew stronger from then onward.
Karlie could tell that Rhett was filled with happiness as they played and walked around the shelter grounds.
Even the shelter staff made a comment that they were “a match made in heaven”!
Everything seemed to line up, Karlie just needed to convince her family that this was the right move.
Attached at the Hip
It didn’t take much convincing!
After a few days, Karlie was heading back from the shelter with Rhett in tow.
He was clearly so excited, but it was going to take some time to adjust to his new life.
“It took him a couple weeks to settle in and get into a routine,” Karlie said. “But, from day one, he followed me everywhere and became my shadow.”
He was so attached to Karlie, in fact, that the poor boy developed separation anxiety.
But, Karlie was committed to Rhett’s training and was able to help him be more comfortable on his own eventually.
Rhett was a quick learner, and Karlie was about to teach him so much more!
Living the Good Life
Once Rhett got settled in, Karlie started to work on his training.
“I started teaching him signs,” Karlie said. “I first taught him the sign “thumbs up” meaning good boy or good job.”
Dogs, whether they are deaf or not, respond very well to hand signs in training, and Rhett was no different!
He picked up on the signs very quickly, and Karlie started teaching him more and more.
It wasn’t long before he understood signs for things like potty, walk, ball, water, food, and friend.
Rhett was loving life with Karlie, and she could tell he was thankful to have a human who understood he was just as capable as any other dog out there.
Rhett had learned so much, and he was ready now to start doing some teaching himself!
All Star Teaching Team
Karlie has been working as a Deaf Education itinerant teacher in Texas for the last 3 years.
During that time, Rhett has joined her team and now they teach together!
“Rhett is now 4 years old and is living his best life educating people on social media that deaf dogs can do anything but hear,” Karlie said.
The two are involved with several non profits including Deaf Dogs Rock, Saving South Texas Dogs, Unstoppables Project and Texas Hands & Voices.
Rhett and Karlie have even published their own children’s book based on Rhett’s journey, titled I Deaf-initely Can, Rhett the Heeler.
“We love showing the world that Rhett lives a normal life and enjoys all things,” Karlie said.
Happily Ever After
While Rhett is a busy boy, he still finds time to play and hangout.
His favorite toys are his tree tugger and the tennis ball, and he’s a big fan of car rides.
“He is OBSESSED,” Karlie shared.
Rhett loves his life with Karlie, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“He enjoys just following me around the house and is the most loyal and protective dog,” Karlie said. “He is my best friend.”
Click here to follow Rhett on Instagram and learn even more about him!