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Roll over Beethoven! Two-year old Australian shepherd Braille is making waves on the Internet. The canine virtuoso was born blind and deaf – the result of irresponsible breeding practices – but has no trouble tickling the ivories, giving other pianists plenty of paws for thought.
The rising star has already garnered his first award, picking up the Novice Trick Dog title, awarded by the American Kennel Club for learning 5-10 tricks. Braille is currently in training for the intermediate and advanced titles, competing in a field dominated by sighted animals.
“With a deaf and blind dog, you use what they have, which is their sense of touch,” Braille’s owner, Rose Adler told the Detroit Free Press.
Braille is a homozygous or ‘double’ merle, meaning both his parents had the merle gene – a gene that causes marbling in the coat. Homozygous merles have a very high chance of being born partially or completely deaf, blind or both, and are often dumped or killed. The puppy of two dogs with the merle gene has a 25 percent chance of being born a homozygous merle. Adler is co-founder of the non-profit organisation Keller’s Cause which seeks to promote responsible breeding practices and the adoption of dogs with special needs.
Braille lives with Adler and her roommate as well as two cats and two dogs. When his paws aren’t on the piano keys, Adler says Braille enjoys hiking, kayaking and napping with the cats. “He’s probably the happiest dog I’ve ever met,” she said. “He’s never upset about anything; he’s confident, he loves to play and snuggle.”
“He doesn’t know he’s blind,” she said. “He’s happy. He’s worried about what he’s going to have for dinner.”