'When he walked in, it was like 'Here I am! I've arrived!' We've noticed a huge difference in Walker's attitude and behavior since Dave showed up.'
It was love at first sight for Walker Cousineau. The happy-faced white pit bull mix staring back at him from the Humane Society of Midland County's Facebook page belonged with him and the teen knew it. "This dog is deaf. Just like me! I need him—he's my dog," Walker's mom, Mindy Cousineau, recalled the 14-year-old telling her. The canine, who the shelter had named "Puppy," was described as "outgoing, smart and lovely. Can meet other dogs" in his photo caption. The shelter also joked that "he's a 9, but he can't hear you snore at night."
Mindy and her husband, Jim Cousineau, immediately jumped in the car with Walker and drove about 35 miles from their home in Bentley, Michigan, to the July 31 Bissell Pet Foundation's Empty the Shelters adoption event in Midland. "We asked to see the deaf dog they called Puppy, and as soon as they brought him out, we knew there was no going back," the 42-year-old shared, adding that it was an instant connection between her son and the 6-year-old pooch who had been dropped off at the shelter about a month earlier. It didn't take Walker long to come up with a name for his new best friend. Inspired by the line "Hey, Dave, listen up, please!" from the "Despicable Me" movie, the teen decided to name the pooch "Dave."
"He thought it would be funny because Dave [the dog] can't listen up," Mindy explained. "We already had two dogs at home, but when we saw Dave plop down into Walker's lap, it was a done deal. It was like Dave was saying, 'This is my person.'" Walker, who is in ninth grade, has high-functioning autism and bilateral hearing loss, she revealed. While he can hear high-pitched tones, the teen uses hearing aids to help him hear low-pitched sounds. "Walker could hear pretty well until he was almost 10 and had influenza A," Mindy said, adding that she suspects the illness may have caused the hearing loss. "He has meltdowns sometimes, and he has been teased at school. When he showed that he related to Dave because he was deaf, we knew it was meant to be. They became instant friends."
According to Casey Nicholson of the Humane Society of Midland County, Walker and Dave are the perfect matches as the canine could also use some extra love after what he's been through. He was neglected and left outside to run free by his original owners before he was taken into another nearby home. Unfortunately, when he did not get along with the chickens on the property, Dave was surrendered to the shelter. "When he arrived here, we were told he was deaf," Nicholson added. Although Dave quickly became a staff favorite because of his gentle demeanor, he was passed over for adoption multiple times because of his deafness before Walker saw his photo online.
"Dave and Walker's friendship is the perfect reminder that there is a family for every shelter pet waiting for their second chance," said Brittany Schlacter, a spokesperson for the Bissell Pet Foundation. Meanwhile, Mindy revealed that Dave instantly made himself at home when he first walked into their residence. He immediately started playing with the family's other dogs, Doug and Darry, and Walker's younger brother, Chase, 12. "He acted like he'd always lived with us," she said. "When he walked in, it was like 'Here I am! I've arrived!' We've noticed a huge difference in Walker's attitude and behavior since Dave showed up. He's more relaxed. When Dave sits next to him, he tells him his troubles."
The family was also pleasantly surprised to learn that Dave already knew sign language commands. "He understands if you sign the words sit, stay, speak, shake, come, good boy and leave it," said Mindy. "He came here already knowing this, so somebody had to have loved this dog. He's really smart and he's really happy. And now Walker is enjoying teaching him some new commands. We all accept him and love him. He's a fun-loving dog, and he's helping Walker to want to spend more time outside. They run around in the yard and play fetch. Walker has become more social and he's talking now to kids at school. He even decided to join the school football team. He's opened up because of Dave."