What kids learn from a deaf dog named Malakai

“Malakai is a true mutt,” said his mom, Jasmin. “Some kind of Chihuahua or Basenji mix perhaps? Your guess is as good as mine!”

Malakai’s mom, Dumb Friends League adoptions associate Jasmine, adopted him when he was just 8-weeks old. The sweet pup who craves love and affection from people and generously returns what he receives is now 9-years old. Animals are no different from humans in that as they age, their body changes. It happens to the best of us, right? In Malakai’s case, he has been losing his hearing for the past few years and is now almost entirely deaf, with the occasional loud noise heard. If you think Malakai’s special consideration slows him down, you’d be mistaken.

In 2012, Malakai completed the League’s ambassadog training and joined his mom as one of our employees–although one that gets paid in hugs, pets and treats. Ambassadogs are highly trained pets used in some of our humane education programs. Kids and adults love meeting our four-legged friends while learning about safe pet interactions and compassion for animals. Currently, there are 11 dogs in the program, and by request, ambassadogs participate in about half of our available programs.

“I thought Malakai would make a great ambassadog because he is sweet and gentle with everyone he meets, especially kids,” said Jasmine. “I know that he always puts a big smile on my face, so I was pretty positive he would do the same for others!”

Jasmine was spot on with her thinking. Malakai participates in the League’s humane education programs several times a month and was a regular attendee at our camp programs when he first began. Kyle Warner, humane educator, said, “We’re so happy to have Malakai as a member our ambassadog program! His love of kids enriches our educational programming, and his deafness in old age is a great teaching opportunity in our recently developed bully prevention lesson.” (Read more about the League’s bully prevention lesson at ddfl.org/news/teaching-empathy-preventing-bullying/.)

Jasmine believes that Malakai’s deafness helps teach students how to act appropriately around special needs animals. “It shows kids that special needs animals are just like any other animal; they just need training and things done a bit differently,” she said. “I think it also encourages kids to be open to adopting special needs animals (once they see how amazing they are)!”

While Malakai teaches kids about love, ability and acceptance, Jasmine thinks the gentle pup most enjoys being the center of attention and making people smile. “The amabassadog program has been so much fun for both of us,” said Jasmine. “He always comes home extra happy and exhausted after an ambassadog day. I enjoy the fact that he loves it, as well as the fact that he can help teach kids about responsible pet ownership. Plus, it’s fantastic that our Humane Education team uses staff animals for their programs, and Malakai and I both always love helping out!”

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