Deaf Rescue Dog Helps Students Overcome Daily Obstacles

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Cole, an abandoned American Bulldog, was picked up by the Cumberland County SPCA when he was just four months old. Typically, small dogs with large floppy ears and big paws are first to go at a shelter, but Cole’s case was different. 

“Nobody wanted to adopt him. He had so many families come to see him and they wouldn’t adopt him," said Chris Hannah, a music teacher at Dr. William Mennies School.

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The reason was Cole is deaf.

Little did he know, the right home would change his life forever.

“My nephew is my inspiration behind the whole idea because he is deaf,” said Hannah, who adopted Cole about a year and a half ago.

Hannah said he fell in love with Cole as soon as they met. His main reason for adopting the little puppy was that he wanted to show his nephew, Kevin, that there are others just like him.

“But then I realized that we can help every kind of kid feel a certain way and to improve the way they feel about themselves and their confidence," said Hannah. "Our biggest thing is giving kids confidence to be creative and to just to think outside of the box and to just be whoever they are."

Shortly after he adopted Cole, Hannah started bringing the pup around his students. It wasn’t until after he saw their response that he knew Cole was something special.

Under Cole's coat of fur, many students said are hidden superpowers.

“He makes me feel comfortable. He makes me feel ... sorta like safe,” said third-grader Samantha Mears. 

“The way that the students were responding to Cole being in a room, their creativity was peaked in ways I hadn’t seen before," said Hannah.

That’s what began the Team Cole Project.

“In the Team Cole Project, we talk about loving someone even though they have something different about them," said Hannah. "So, the idea of Cole being deaf, or the idea of my nephew being deaf, they’re loved and can be loved just like anybody else, or anything else really."

Cole and Hannah work one-on-one with students who may be shy or lacking confidence in themselves. They’ll read or even sing songs to Cole.

“Even though deep down they know he can’t hear them ... I think that’s why they kind of open up, because he’s not going to judge them," said Hannah.

Cole can also be found helping outside of school at veterans homes, hospitals and many other places.

He even has his own comic book, which is sold to help benefit other animals like himself waiting for their forever homes at the SPCA. The comic book features Cole and Hannah's nephew, Kevin, as superheroes. 

The Team Cole Project will host an assembly to let the community know what their mission is — as well as raise money for the SPCA — at the Dr. William Mennies School in Vineland on Wednesday, September 19th, at 5:30 p.m. The event is open to the public.


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