What I learned from Greta

I rescued Greta as a 10 week old puppy… after her family realized that she was deaf... and no longer wanted her.

I received the call about Greta at a time when I had nothing left to give. I was out of space, money, and energy… and my gut told me to just say no. But my heart insisted that I say yes… because Greta had no other hope.  

And we all know who won that battle… because Greta came to live with me.

I usually don’t get as attached to puppies, as I do some of the older dogs. It’s not because I don’t love puppies as much as the others...  or because they aren’t as special. It’s simply because the puppies are rarely with me as long… and since they’re young and relatively undamaged by the cruelty of the world... it’s easier to send them off to their new families... without fear that they’ll feel abandoned by me.

But Greta was an extra-special puppy. The special needs dogs always are. Due to her disability, she’d already been abandoned once... and I never wanted her to feel that pain again. So, I took her into my home, loved her with everything I had, and avoided any thoughts of her inevitable departure. Because I knew... that this one was going to steal my heart.

I’ve always said that there’s something very special about the deaf dogs. When compared to other dogs, deaf dogs are very different… yet very much the same. Greta looks and acts like every other dog. I loved her just like every other dog, and I talked to her just like every dog. But of course, Greta never heard a word of it. Not with her ears at least…

In all honesty, she doesn’t even know that her name is Greta. The name was more for me than her. Actually, I called her “Greta Van Susteren”… “Greta-Van” for short. When she was bad, I’d go with “Susteren!”

But this was all out of habit, not necessity. Greta doesn't listen with her ears... she listens with her heart.

Of course, puppies get into everything, and usually, a firm No! will get their attention, and teach them how to behave. With Greta, that clearly doesn’t work. So when she’d get into mischief… every hour on the hour… I’d have to physically get up... to guide her to a more acceptable activity. I learned a lot of patience, through teaching my Greta not to be so crazy.

When she was placed up for adoption, I was shocked to receive more adoption applications for Greta than any other dog so far. Yes, I knew that Greta was insanely adorable… I wanted to eat her for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the 'special needs' status is usually a deterrent for most adopters. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many great applications for my little angel.

As I was struggling to make the right decision for Greta, an email from a dog named Kato “Porkchops” Poissant helped me select Greta’s new family. My heart instantly knew that this was the perfect home for my baby… and that she’d truly complete their family. In turn, they would complete her life.

On Thursday, my heart broke as I sent my little girl with P.E.T.S. transport. Destination: Home... also known as Rhode Island. As the transporters took Greta from my arms, there was suddenly a huge hole in my heart. As I drove away, I was a sobbing mess… wishing I didn’t have to hurt Greta, in order to inevitably help her. I knew she wouldn’t understand… she’d think I was abandoning her too. But I also knew, that she’d soon understand why I did it. I didn’t do it for me. I did it for her.

And today... Greta got home. She was greeted by the amazing parents that will love her forever… and now, their family is finally complete. Since I couldn’t be there, I’d like to share with them (and you) some of the things I learned from Greta Van Susteren:

Greta loves sleeping… and while she looks so damn cute, that you'll feel compelled to wake her…  I’m gonna recommend that you don’t. Once she’s awake… she’s awake, and you’ll realize your mistake, as she sleepily eats all of your crap in protest. Just let her rest… trust me on that one. Plus, there’s nothing more peaceful than a deaf, sleeping baby. You can fire a damn gun in the room --which I often do-- and the sleepy pup won’t even budge. Nap time for a deaf puppy is so tranquil… as is --life in general. Greta showed me that sounds and words aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. She understood me just fine without them.
Greta loves blankets. She likes to crawl all the way underneath, leaving just her nose sticking out, and take a nap. If I’ve ever met a dog that loves to burrow… it’s Greta Van Susteren. She especially likes it if you’re under the blanket too, because she needs a big pillow (also known as your body) for her little head. But when she does this… don’t move. Do not move. She needs her rest, and lack of movement is a small price to pay for sanity.

Greta loves to feel safe, which means she likes to be in your arms, by your side, or under/inside things that make her feel secure. She loves sleeping in a crate on a comfy bed… and she’ll love that bed to pieces… literally. The second she wakes up, Greta has one mission: Rob that bed of every piece of stuffing it's worth. Then, drag it across the floor... to make sure it’s good and dead... before moving on to other objects.

Greta loves coffee tables. They’re big and exciting. She likes the challenge of jumping from the couch to the coffee table, and then walking around up there... like she’s on top of the world. If there are drinks on the table… perfect… she’s thirsty. If there are magazines or important documents… even better… she’s hungry.

Greta loves toys... which should be available to her at all times... trust me on that. You should also know, that the word "toy" is a very broad term for Greta. She expands it to include: clothing, eating utensils, papers, purses, and makeup brushes. But of course, shoes are best. If Greta battles a flip-flop, Greta wins every freaking time.

Greta loves to smile… and she has one of those smiles that will melt your heart. She also loves to play in the yard. Sometimes, I’d just watch her from the window, as she’d smile and run through the grass. In doing this, I could only imagine the peace she must feel inside… as the sounds of the world are muted… and she only hears the joy in her own heart.

Greta loves belly rubs... they paralyze her energy. Note to adopter: Rub belly often.

Greta loves other dogs. She likes to taunt them, harass them, and wake them from their naps... for her own benefit. It’s absolutely hysterical to watch her with the other pups… because her heart is so damn happy. Every day, I’d laugh my ass off, as she’d clumsily bat at their faces, like a drunk cat. But keep in mind: she doesn’t understand just how LOUD she can be during playtime. Sometimes her playful growls sound like a jacked-up jet engine; other times her happy squeals are like the pleasant screech of a broken-down Volkswagen. Either way, try to appreciate the innocence and humor of her quirky noises… I’ll miss them every day, forever.

Most of all, Greta will love YOU. My favorite time of day was cuddle time with Greta. She’s so sweet and loving, and my heart was filled with happiness as she’d cuddle in my lap and drift off to sleep. Then, she’d wake up, gaze up at me with those innocent little eyes, and give me the sweetest kisses I’ve ever known. The purity and simplicity of my time with Greta was truly life-changing for me, and I'll treasure those special moments as long as I live. When I’m sad, I’ll think of Greta… and my heart will always smile.

Greta on the way home, with mom, Lisa
Don, Lisa, & Kato, you received a piece of my heart today. Her name is Greta. In return, you gave me hope. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for loving my baby. Thank you, for healing my pain with your joy. And thank you, for allowing a piece of me... to become a piece of you.

Greta-Van, thank you for being you. You truly changed my life… just by showing up. I'll love you forever.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your new home, Greta. You probably ate some piece of furniture already, like my cats sometimes do :-)

  2. I absolutely love every one of ur blogs...you pour ur heart into them, and i cry usually everytime i read one..you are an amazing person and im sure you hear that quite often but i dont believe it can be said enough..thank you for all that you do..thank you for loving Greta and all the other precious babies..thank you for leading them home...thank you thank you THANK YOU!!

  3. omg...what a beautiful selfless story....I feel your joy and sadness....But the bottom line is she made you a better person with a much more awareness of sound....her deafness will always be music to your ears....You will always have a smile attached to her when you think of her....
    Bless the new owners...keep up with your wonderful journey in life, Ashley!

  4. The look they give you when you put them on transport is heartbreaking! But the just a few hours later they get the joy of walking off 'the bus' to the family that promised to love and keep them forever :) I can tell just from that one pic of Lisa and Greta that Greta knows - "oh, THAT is why mama Ashley put me on the bus!" FWIW, she was on the same transport as our Bo ;) congratulations Greta, you lucky pup!

  5. what a beautiful story... thank you for saving this little baby. I am so happy that she has found her forever home!!

  6. Ashley, I will be meeting Greta tomorrow and I can hardly wait. She is beautiful and we are so happy she has finally arrived. We are all in love already...especially Kato!

  7. Ashley, thank you for your stories on your babies. I love them. And I love you. Deb from Tampa FL

  8. Can't post much cuz I'm bawling, but you are AMAZING! I hope that her new parents will send you pics and updates on Greta Van's life. :)

  9. As a rescuer of and companion to deaf Great Danes, I am always thrilled when someone "gets" a deafie and appreciates how special they are...May you be blessed eternally for all that you do :-)!!

  10. Ashley, thank you for sharing your heart. Not too many people can do that. For this, and all your other blogs; I am truly grateful. I'm so happy for little Greta!

  11. Thanks Ashley for sharing Greta with us. She is beautiful and so are you.

  12. Ashley, I don't know how you do it, setting yourself up for heartbreak every day.... the joy must outweigh the sadness otherwise it would drive a person insane. You are truly a unique and selfless person. We need more Ashleys in this world!! God Bless you in everything you set out to do...thank you for giving these sweet babies a 2nd chance at living!!! <3<3

  13. HI!!!!!!

    We just wanted to say HI! We've been reading your blog since you did the post on fostering. We loved it!

    Greta sounds like a doll! One of Droopy's best friends is a deaf pitbull named Evie and she is awesome!

    The CheeseHounds

  14. I sure do love to read these happy endings! and admire everything you do!!


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