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August 16, 2003

Deaf dog leaves family distressed

From: Philadelphia Inquirer, PA - Aug 16, 2003

By Amie Parnes
Inquirer Suburban Staff

For the last week, 13-year-old Katie Ross has quietly scoured backyards, empty lots, and patches of forests. She and her parents, Tom and Ann, and dozens of neighbors have walked the twisting back roads of Bucks County and the banks of the Delaware River.

But, as Katie said, "it is hard to look for someone when that someone doesn't know you're looking for them."

That someone is her dog, Elton. He has been missing since last Saturday. He is deaf.

Usually, Katie said, she could get Elton to come to her by motioning with a hand, or to lie down by pressing her hands toward the floor. But such gestures have not helped the family or others who have seen Elton in the last few days.

The Australian shepherd ran away from a Solebury kennel while the Buckingham Township family was on an eight-day bicycle trip.

"He probably missed us so much," Katie said. "This was the longest time we have ever been away from him. He's very attached to us."

"Our biggest concern is that he could run into the road and not hear the cars honking," Ann Ross said. "At any moment, it could be the wrong car or the wrong truck around the wrong corner."

The Rosses have raised 3-year-old Elton since he was a puppy and had to pay him special attention because of his deafness. They learned to communicate through sign language, and Katie said she had been training Elton for an obstacle-course agility competition in the fall.

"He caught on very quickly," Tom Ross said. "He's a very smart dog."

So smart, family members said, that the 50-pound dog squeezed through an opening in a wooden fence at the Grooming Den on Route 263. A tree branch had fallen onto the fence in a storm, loosening some of the boards. The owner of the kennel lets the dogs out in the morning and did not notice the gap in the fence, family members said.

Since then, the Rosses have received numerous calls of sightings. One person said he had seen Elton along the Delaware; another said he had seen him walking near New Hope and Carversville.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Rosses saw their dog 20 feet in front of them, close to Aquetong Road in Solebury, but he took off.

"In a second, he was out of sight," Ann Ross said.

On Thursday afternoon, the family received a call from a Solebury man who said he had seen Elton by the Solebury School. The family searched the area well into the evening. But no Elton.

Elton is a mix of white, black and gray. He is smaller than a Labrador, but bigger than a cocker spaniel. One eye is blue, the other half-brown and half-blue. His right ear stands up, while his left is down.

His collar has a tag with the Rosses' phone number and a county dog-license tag.

But Elton is shy, Katie said, and probably will not allow strangers to come near him. "If someone sees him, they shouldn't run after him, because he'll run away."

A good way to get him to come over, she said, is to "show him that you have food."

Did You See Elton?

The Rosses ask that anyone who spots Elton, an Australian shepherd, call them at 215-230-7886.

© 2003 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.