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ONLINE STARS

RPD Facebook page pets gallery takes off

Five dogs — all deaf — become online stars after department posts gallery

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RPD Facebook page pets gallery takes off

“Deaf dogs, they hear with their hearts,” says Richmond police Detective Mac Adams, seen with his dogs.

It began with modest expectations, but has evolved into something pawsitively huge.

The Richmond Police Department set up a photo gallery on its Facebook page last month to showcase some of the officers and their pets. The animals ranged from fish and hamsters to chickens and miniature donkeys.

“We just wanted to put a human face on our officers,” said police spokeswoman Dionne Waugh, whose job duties include overseeing the department’s social media efforts.

The gallery was a hit with the department’s Facebook followers, but one shot in particular struck a chord. It’s a photo of Mac Adams, a major crimes detective and 26-year veteran of the force, posing with his five dogs. All five are white, and all five are deaf.

Rescue groups that concentrate on deaf dogs and pit bulls — four of Adams’ dogs are believed to be pit bull mixes — noticed the picture and began sharing it. And sharing it. And sharing it.

By Thursday morning, the picture had been “liked” more than 12,000 times, shared nearly 15,000 times and viewed almost 1 million times. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider the department has a relatively modest Facebook following of slightly more than 10,000 people.

“We’ve never had any kind of response even close to this in the five years we’ve been on Facebook,” Waugh said.

Those commenting have come from across the United States as well as Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany, and they have thanked Adams for his work with deaf dogs and pit bulls and thanked him for his service to the community.

Adams is happy to see his little pals Pickles, Nea, Piglet, Opal and Mortimer bring some positive attention to deaf dogs.

“Dogs have unconditional love anyway,” he said, “and deaf dogs, they hear with their hearts. I can’t say enough about them. They’re really cool.”

Adams got involved with deaf dogs by accident in November 2010. His mastiff had died about a year earlier, and he was finally ready to get another dog.

A friend who worked at Richmond Animal Care and Control told him about a deaf, white, female pit bull mix that was available for adoption. When Adams went to look at the pup, he learned that deaf dogs often languish in shelters or in foster care for long periods while waiting for someone to adopt them.

“She was just so cute that I couldn’t let that happen to her,” he said.

The fact that she was deaf didn’t seem insurmountable.

“I was just like, ‘We’ll figure this out,’ ” Adams said.

Sure enough, Adams quickly realized that the dog, which he named Pickles, was especially adept at watching for visual cues and was very responsive when touched. The same held true for the four other deaf dogs that the family adopted over the next three years.

“Four out of the five are bully breeds. The fifth one, Mortimer, I have no idea what he is,” Adams said. “But they’re awesome dogs. We have five kids. They’re great with kids. They’re wonderful to have around.”

Because they are deaf, the dogs have a tendency to want to stay close to the humans in their household.

“They like to be in contact with you. They almost have to be in constant contact with you,” Adams said. “I can’t cook in the kitchen without all five of them being in there with me.”

And while they want to stay close, they also pay close attention — sometimes so close, Adams said, that it can affect the way you act around them.

“They do cue off of you a lot,” he said. “If they see you move, all five of them move, too. So you have to be careful sometimes. They watch every move you make, even though sometimes those moves don’t mean anything.”

He chuckled.

“We’ve learned as a family,” he said, “to be a lot more relaxed over the years.”

Adams said he never thought that submitting dog pictures for Waugh’s Facebook gallery would lead to such a large wave of positive attention for deaf dogs and pit bulls.

“I had no idea it was going to get to where it got to,” he said. “But it’s great. Anything that helps, I’m all for it.”

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