Ghost, a pit bull mix with honey brown eyes and gorgeous white fur, is making headlines for becoming the first deaf dog to join the K-9 team in Washington state’s and, possibly, even the country’s history. What makes the achievement even more remarkable is that, just a few years ago, the narcotics detection dog, was deemed “unadoptable” and scheduled to be euthanized.
The canine’s incredible journey began in September 2015, when the then three-month-old stray puppy was brought to the Swamp Haven Rescue Center in St. Augustine, Florida. Thanks to his high energy, occasional indifference to humans, and deafness, which would require adopters to learn a different way to communicate, animal control officials placed him on the “unadoptable” list. This meant the puppy would soon have to be put down. However, Swamp Haven volunteers were not ready to give up on Ghost and reached out to animal shelters across the country for help. To their delight and relief, the Olympic Peninsula Humane Society in Port Angeles, Washington agreed to take in the puppy, giving Ghost a new lease on life.
After the puppy missed out on several adoption opportunities, the shelter reached out to Barb Davenport, a K-9 program manager for Washington State Department of Corrections, who is well-known for selecting canine recruits from animal shelters around the country. The expert, who has trained over 450 rescue dogs to search for drugs since the 1980s, thought Ghost was the perfect candidate for the job. Davenport said, "He was very focused and determined to locate his ball when thrown or hidden. This makes for a more trainable dog.” And while his high energy may have been a deterrent for a home life, it was an important asset for his new career.
Following a multi-year training stint, Ghost began his job, which entails sniffing for drugs in state prisons and other facilities, in January 2018. Even more heartening is that the once “unadoptable” dog now has a stable and happy home with handler Joe Henderson, who, like Ghost, works for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.