Adopted Pit Bull Becomes First Deaf Narcotics Detection Dog in the Nation

For Joe, Ghost is the best four-legged coworker he could imagine.

Joe + Ghost

Ghost was overlooked at the shelter due to his hearing loss. But he was uniquely equipped to lend a paw in an important law enforcement career.

"After a long, hard day at work, he comes home with me and is off the clock until I give him those hand signals again."

Ghost the Pitt Bull

Many people rideshare to work. Designated drivers hit the road negotiating traffic while their fellow passengers try to wake up their sleepy souls, complaining about the early hour and the injustices of the previous workday. They most likely balance a cup of coffee in one hand and a cell phone in the other, grateful they have a reprieve from fighting the traffic until it’s their turn to drive. I can honestly say that this scenario is NEVER the case when I commute to work. My passenger never complains about anything and is always bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to go. Why? It’s simple: my fellow co-worker is of the four-legged variety!

Ghost the Pitt Bull

Ghost, an all-white Pit Bull terrier mix, is my special narcotics detective partner. I literally could not do my job without him. Not only is his career special, Ghost is the very first deaf drug-sniffing detective in the entire nation. When he was transferred to Olympic Peninsula Humane Society (OPHS), the shelter technicians who evaluate each animal for their traits, health, and disposition, noticed that Ghost would do absolutely anything for a ball. In fact, Ghost would rather play with a ball than eat!

Ghost the Pitt Bull

Being ball-motivated is one of the traits K-9 trainers look for in recruiting canine detectives. But poor Ghost was overlooked for adoption many times at OPHS because of his high energy and the fact that he is deaf. The OPHS veterinarian, Dr. Susy Zsustiak, reached out to my fellow trainer, Barbara Davenport from the Washington Department of Corrections, to come evaluate Ghost. She noticed he didn’t show any of the typical traits of many deaf dogs, like being fearful with a startle reflex. In fact, with Ghost, his inability to hear seemed to make him more focused.

Ghost the Pitt Bull

Barbara brought Ghost to me for certification training. Of course, there was an added dimension I had never trained for: coming up with sign language that only Ghost and I would understand, which would give him the clue of when to “go work,” as well as when to “take a break” and “stop working.” Together we spent a total of 300 hours training to be able to certify Ghost for his current job. While certification typically takes 200 hours, we spent an additional 100 hours in training because of Ghost’s hearing loss.
And now, Ghost has found his calling. After a long, hard day at work, he comes home with me and is off the clock until I give him those hand signals again. He is very special to everyone in the department. I hope his story teaches us all to focus on our strengths and find a true calling, which will allow us to flourish and enjoy life to the fullest.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Joe won Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in Washington a 2018 Holiday Wishes award.

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