Shop Dogs: From hell to Harley heaven—Boner the deaf Boxer

By JoAnn Bortles

They are the dogs most people walk past at the shelters. And even when someone might be interested, once they hear the story, they usually keep walking. Dogs with disabilities are often overlooked. People wrongly think they are too much work, high maintenance, or take no time to even consider how to care for them. But inside each one of these dogs is a heart and soul that longs for someone to love, someone to look past the disability and see the eager pup that only wants a chance. Boner was found chained up behind a foreclosed house along with three other dogs in 2007. No one knows how long he’d been there. But the police found them and turned them over to Adopt a Boxer Rescue in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

They figured out Boner was a pure-bred Boxer who was born deaf due to a genetic defect related to his white fur. But after two years in foster care, Boner finally found someone who was willing to take a chance. Douglas Chan, a service tech at Pocono Mountain Harley-Davidson, took Boner home. Doug didn’t know anything about taking care of a deaf dog and was nervous about leaving Boner home for the first few months, so he brought him into work. Boner quickly became “one of the guys” and an important member of the Pocono H-D team.

“Boner is the perfect shop dog because loud noises don’t bother him,” Doug told us. And because Boner can’t hear, his other senses have become more developed. “We communicate using eye contact and hand signals. He basically knows what I want just by looking at me.” Boner has developed an intuitiveness that makes it easy to forget he’s deaf.

Boner has a number of duties at the dealership. He gives the service department a friendly feel to customers by sitting at the glass doors and looking out at the showroom. And he is in charge of dog customer relations. When customers bring their dogs with them, Boner is always ready to make them feel welcome. He plays with all the dogs that visit, but he knows that the smaller dogs might be more nervous, so he works extra hard to help them feel happy to be there. Boner’s other job is making sure food doesn’t accumulate on the work benches and he regularly patrols checking every bench. It can be exhausting at times, so Boner likes to take long naps next to the bike lifts.

One of his favorite things is butt scratches and he will back up against people when he sees them, so that they will reach down and scratch his butt. Despite all he’s been through, he’s a sweet, gentle guy. He loves to cuddle, and he loves babies and knows how to be gentle around them. He mainly stays in the service department, but he ventures out every once in a while, when he knows his dad is nearby.

One of Boner’s most memorable stories is the time a good customer’s new Harley was waiting for him outside in back of the service department. Boner decided to take a stroll and went to check out the customer’s brand-new bike, lifted his leg and gave it a good luck shower for the road.

Boner is believed to be around 12 years old and is getting ready to celebrate 10 years at the dealership. But he has developed cataracts in both eyes. He only had partial vision, seeing only shadows and figures. He can’t recognize people until they get close. He also has to take frequent bathroom breaks. But he’s still in good spirits and loves to come to work every day. Not a bad life for a dog that started out on a chain, forgotten behind a house; a pup who was ready to prove that given a chance, a disability is not an obstacle.

Doug said that a disability can sometimes be an advantage if you’re a person looking for a dog who isn’t bothered by loud noises. “Boner is exactly what I thought my next dog should be. Dogs with a disability are more fun to be around.”

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