Deafness is not usually something a new pup parent considers before adoption. And it surely wasn’t on Chris Hannah’s radar when he set out to search for his perfect dog-mate who would soon to become the famous Cole the Deaf Dog. He never anticipated adopting a dog with special needs—or one who would quickly become a kindness hero and founder of The Team Cole Project.
Back in April 2017, Hannah made the decision to adopt a shelter dog. “The very first one that popped into my eyesight on their website happened to be this little deaf puppy,” he says. Hannah’s nephew was also born deaf, so when he saw this little puppy on the shelter website, Hannah instantly “fell in love.” He quickly made an appointment to see the puppy the next day. “Even before I met this dog, I knew my heart was set,” he says.
And that was all it took. After settling in with his new pupper who would soon become his best buddy in the whole world, the duo set out to become an advocate for deaf dogs and humans alike. His work: bringing joy, acceptance, and a “celebration of differences” to children and seniors through a social-emotional learning program called The Team Cole Project.
Recently, Hannah—a New Jersey elementary music teacher—introduced Cole to his students. He comments that many of these children have never been exposed to someone living with special needs. By bringing Cole into the classroom, students were able to learn firsthand how to be more “compassionate,” “accepting,” and “creative.” Hannah says. “Cole has a very particular way with children and it’s amazing to witness!”
Children are not the only soft spot in Cole and Hannah’s heart. Shortly after earning Cole’s therapy certification, the dynamic duo began visiting local veteran hospitals. Every Tuesday evening (and now major holidays), Hannah and Cole visit roughly 300 residents at N.J. Veteran’s Memorial Home.
“We don’t miss a holiday. Even in the pandemic, we walk the windows and wave, trying to bring joy to the residents,” Hannah says. “We use our volunteering as a tool to inspire others to try to do the same.” People open their minds in a little different way when you present it through the eyes of an animal, Hannah says.
A caption on one of Hannah’s Facebook posts reads, “We are looking forward to our journey of becoming the Deaf Dynamic Duo and doing our part to make the world a kinder, more accepting place.”
From all of us animal lovers, keep fighting the good fight Cole—you’re barking up the right tree with this important mission!