FULTON — A deaf dachshund is getting some expert help learning more sign language after finding a new home at the Missouri School for the Deaf.
The Fulton Sun reported that the 1-year-old dog named Sparky arrived at the mid-Missouri school this winter after receiving training through a program that pairs rescue dogs with prison inmates.
When the eight weeks of training was over, the inmates at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking decided they wanted Sparky to live with deaf students.
The superintendent of the Fulton school, Barbara Garrison, jumped at the chance. The students continue adding to the sign language Sparky learned from the inmates. He already knows the signs for "no," ''sit," ''lie down," ''stay," ''stop" and "heel."
The brindle-colored dachshund even sleeps with students in the dorms sometimes.
Sophomore Catherine Slinkard of Sullivan asked to keep Sparky overnight first, so he stayed in her dorm one night.
"He was very calm when I had him," Slinkard said through an interpreter.
Then Sparky went over to Michael Miller's dorm room. The senior says he fell in love with the little dog. Miller learned quickly that yelling at Sparky did no good. He had to either use sign language or pick the dog up to get his attention. Miller knew Sparky could hear nothing, just like him.
"I feel that because I can communicate with him in signs that it's special," he said through an interpreter.
When Sparky isn't overnighting in the dorms, he sleeps at Garrison's house, where she keeps four other dachshunds.
He patters around campus during the day.
"He fits perfectly here," Garrison said, "because these kids hear all the time what they can't do. We try to tell them what they can do."
Prison staff members check in frequently to see how Sparky is doing. The news is all good. Garrison said Sparky teaches responsibility and has the ability to help calm down students with behavior or social problems.
"He likes his new deaf family here," she said.