Can you sign ‘good boy’?

Deaf dog saved af­ter hur­ri­cane has learned new hand signals while wait­ing for adop­tion


In her large Stouf­fville back­yard, Ma­rina Bour­guignon holds two thumbs up in front of Scruffy’s face.

A ter­rier mutt with a very sweet dis­po­si­tion who sur­vived Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, Scruffy leans in for a cud­dle and licks her face.

Found as a stray at a gas sta­tion dur­ing the Septem­ber hur­ri­cane in Houston, the dog was suf­fer­ing from a se­vere ear in­fec­tion that has left him deaf.

Bour­guignon, who is fos­ter­ing Scruffy un­til a per­ma­nent lov­ing home can be found, is teach­ing him com­mands in sign language.

“I’m learn­ing, too, as I go along,” she laughed, adding her furry friend came to her home about three weeks ago due to al­ler­gies in his pre­vi­ous foster home.

“He’s a beau­ti­ful dog. He’s so lov­ing. I don’t un­der­stand why he isn’t adopted yet. There’s noth­ing wrong with him ex­cept that he’s deaf and he just learned sign language. He knows come, he knows sit, he knows lay down, he knows quiet. He learns fast.”

Be­lieved to be about two years old, Scruffy is one of 39 dogs that weath­ered the hur­ri­cane and were re­trieved by Toronto-based dog-res­cue agency Redemp­tion Paws. They were de­liv­ered to the On­tario So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals head­quar­ters near New­mar­ket on Sept. 11.

In total, Redemp­tion Paws has res­cued more than 80 dogs af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Bour­guignon, who is also now fos­ter­ing Jade, born deaf and res­cued from Ok­la­homa, isn’t in a po­si­tion to adopt Scruffy.

For one, the fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst en­joys hav­ing her dogs ac­com­pany her when she rides horses on for­est trails, an ac­tiv­ity too dan­ger­ous for a deaf dog.

She is also com­ing to grips with the emo­tional loss of her own two dogs within weeks of each other this year.

In Au­gust, her Aus­tralian cat­tle dog, Aussie, died of old age at 16.

A cou­ple of weeks later, when she heard about dogs that had sur­vived the hur­ri­cane need­ing homes, she con­tacted Redemp­tion Paws to say she would foster some.

Her sec­ond dog, a stray Aus­tralian cat­tle dog named Tank, which she adopted two years ago, helped so­cial­ize some of the six hur­ri­cane dogs that have passed through her home.

But in Oc­to­ber, nine-year-old Tank de­vel­oped a tu­mour and died.

Bour­guignon is now con­tent with fos­ter­ing dogs un­til she feels ready to adopt again.

“They are per­fectly good dogs and they need lov­ing homes, too,” she added.

“A lot of them, I think they need to be shown they can be loved, that ev­ery­thing is go­ing to be OK. They’re so in­no­cent, they’re so for­giv­ing.”

As she looks at Scruffy chew­ing on a dog toy, Bour­guignon is hop­ing he finds a “lov­ing for­ever home.”

“He looks like Tramp from Lady and the Tramp. He’s so cute,” she said.

“He’s an easy­go­ing boy. There’s noth­ing wrong with him. He’s very sweet, he’s very lov­ing and all he wants to do is just love you and be loved.”


Ma­rina Bour­guignon is fos­ter­ing a pair of deaf dogs, in­clud­ing Scruffy. He was found af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

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