DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 02/18/02


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DaDane of DaWeek

– Blue Eyes, Stormy Skies –

February 18, 2002 – As you can see, I am working on a new design for and DaDane of DaWeek. This is a test run. Hopefully my site will be easier to navigate with the new layout and more user-friendly drop-down menus. Things may be a little "catawampus" for awhile until I reconfigure all the pages to match, so please be patient.

Last Week's DaDane

Well, well, well... it seems last week's DaDane created a bit of a ruckus in some circles. Fanny's pretty blue eyes led some people to assume she was deaf, blind, or both. Let me assure you, Fanny has perfect hearing and perfect eyesight. Blue eyes are not inevitably connected to sensory deficiencies and Fanny's breeder made sure she was not impaired before she was sold. It's worth noting, too, that any dog with an AKC obedience title, like Fanny has, must have sight and hearing. The Obedience Regulations state: "A dog that is blind or deaf....may not compete in any Obedience Trial....".

There appears to be some confusion about what causes the above-mentioned deficits, so I decided that should be our focus this week.


Today's portrait features Stella, who is deaf and visually impaired. The photos I worked from were taken at the 2000 GDCA National when Stella was just 8 months old.

Stella lives in northwest Missouri with the Petersen family. She is the youngest in a household of 12 dogs! Michelle Petersen, Stella's mom, gives us the roll-call: "Four rescue Danes (which includes Henry, who is ~6 years old and blind in one eye, partially blind in the other; he is my most recent foster-adoptee), six retired Greyhounds, a 10-year-old Siberian Husky and an 11-year-old Retriever/Chow mix." She goes on to say, "It's getting to be a more 'geriatric herd' these days, but everyone is doing pretty well. Some days when Stella, Gretchen (our brindle rescue Dane), and Henry are at the baby gate looking into the kitchen, I can't help but call them 'deaf, dumb and blind' – but they know I am just kidding! Stella is the youngest of the bunch. Our oldest, Moose, is 13 1/2."

StellaToday happens to be Stella's second birthday. (Happy birthday, Stella!) She is very fortunate to have found such a wonderful home, one that's willing – and able – to adjust to her special needs. Stella was the product of a harlequin-to-harlequin breeding by what Michelle calls a backyard breeder in a puppy mill environment. "From what I can tell, this breeder often has one or two deaf pups per litter. Stella's breeder actually encouraged me to breed Stella! Can you imagine? No way! ... All things considered, Stella is doing very well despite her sensory deficits. She even has a 'boyfriend,' a deaf, large male Dane (neutered, of course!) who comes to visit us occasionally. Stella loves to show him around the yard, etc. She is our tallest dog, but weighs a 'petite' 120. She is still very intelligent and she has recently learned a few new ASL signs. I am trying to learn the alphabet myself, so I frequently practice with her. We continue to see the veterinary eye doctor yearly, and she takes prescription eye drops, but seems to be in excellent health. I have a copy of the report by her ophthalmologist which states, 'Stella has very abnormal eye formation from a condition called Waardenburg's Syndrome. This inherited condition occurs in white or merle animals and affects both the ears and eyes of animals with inadequate pigment. Stella is a classic case as she is deaf and has significant ocular changes. Her pupils are misshapen and misplaced. Her globes are slightly micropthalmic (smaller than they should be). The lens in her left eye is misshapen and subluxated (partially in the wrong spot). Again, all of these changes are from her genetic abnormality.'"

PetuniaGenetics Lesson
JP Yousha, Fanny's breeder, has graciously agreed to summarize for us how white dogs, blues eyes and defects such as deafness and blindness are related. Here's what she has to say:

The Basics of Understanding the Role of White in Dogs

There are three "kinds" of white in dogs and all can cause health problems. They can be referred to as: 1) Albino Series 2) Recessive Spotting White and 3) Dominant Spotting White.

1) Albino Series – is not recorded in the Great Dane. It is found in such breeds as the Doberman, where it causes some problems, and in the German Shepherd, where is it disqualified under the standard, and in some other breeds, where – in a modified form – it is allowed. In many breeds there are "cream" dogs who have genes in this series without health problems.

2) Recessive Spotting White – is found in many, many breeds. In some, like the Dalmatian, deafness can be part of the loss of pigment, as can blue eyes. In dogs who have more pigment these recessive genes don't cause any trouble. Our Mantle pattern results from such recessive genes. Piebald Danes can have blue eyes and could in theory be deaf, although most have dark caps of color on their heads and have brown eyes, so are not in danger of deafness as a rule.

3) Dominant Spotting White – or merle genes – are not commonly found in many dogs or dog breeds, as merle to merle breedings produce dogs with defects, so the color (and these breedings) are generally avoided. Harlequin (and merle, white, merlikin) Great Danes carry merle genes. Dogs with merle genes who are predominately white, who have blue eyes, who lack color on the head, especially around the ears and eyes, can and do suffer both hearing and sight defects. But blue eyes are NOT directly correlated to deafness. Rather lack of pigment can give a dog a blue eye and a chance of ear and eye defects. So the two traits, deafness and blue eyes DO travel together, but not all blue eyed Danes are deaf. (Stella falls under this category, as do a few other Danes I've featured, such as Petunia, pictured above, and Hermia.)

Recommended Links
If you are interested in the Harlequin family of Great Danes it pays to be educated on the basics of color inheritance. Below are some links to more information on how a lack of pigment, when severe, can result in various defects, particularly of the sensory system:

                                                                          — JP Yousha, CHROMADANE

For additional information, please visit JP's Links Directory. Stella's mom also adds the following advice for people living with a deaf dog, "I learned a lot from the deaf dog web site at and also from the book, 'Living With A Deaf Dog' by Susan Cope Becker. The book features a deaf Dane, also."

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