It’s hard to imagine feeling anything but glee when seeing a puppy. But when an Australian Shepherd named Keller came into the world, her breeder felt less than thrilled. Instead, they reportedly came up with plans to shoot the newborn pup.
Fortunately, a pair of dog lovers stepped in to save the puppy. They were able to find her a new home with Amanda Fuller, who figured out the shocking reason why her pet was almost killed – and made it her mission to save more dogs like Keller.
Even before adopting a puppy in need, Amanda had a track record of caring for animals. In fact, she had made a career out of it. She worked as a veterinary technician in her home state of Maryland.
Amanda already had a dog at home, too: an Australian Shepherd named Kai. She told Dogster that she had begun searching for another canine companion without ever imagining that she’d find one with a backstory like Keller’s.
“I was just looking for a second dog,” she said. “I knew I wanted another Australian Shepherd, so I had started contacting some breeders and reached out to some different rescues.” Those vague parameters somehow led her right to the puppy she’d take home.
An online search took Amanda to a rescue organization’s listing of an Australian Shepherd puppy with an all-white coat. She had a sudden urge to inquire about this dog, even though she knew a pigment-free pooch wasn’t ideal.
A white Australian Shepherd can only come into the world when two merles – Aussies with speckled dark-and-light coats – have puppies. When two merles mate, their litter will have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the same dappled coloring, which is great for breeders, due to their popularity.
Of course, that only happens half of the time. There’s also a 25 percent chance that the puppies will have single coloring without the coveted merle fur. But about a quarter of the time, puppies will be born with a double merle gene, which leaves them barely any pigmentation.
But it’s not just the fur that changes in double merle pups. Many of them end up deaf, and a large number will have difficulties seeing. They’re often born with eyes that are too small or otherwise defective.
Responsible Australian Shepherd breeders won’t let two merle dogs mate due to concerns about their litter being riddled with health issues. Less scrupulous breeders, however, might still try it.
What’s more, many have their methods for dealing with all-white puppies. Some breeders will abandon them at shelters or pawn them off on families unaware of the problems that these dogs tend to face. They might even come up with a far worse method of getting such dogs off their hands.
Amanda discovered that the dog she would eventually adopt, Keller, indeed had a more ominous backstory. The people who rescued Keller “had taken her from the breeder when she was five weeks old because the breeder was going to shoot her,” Amanda told Dogster.
Amanda did feel some trepidation about adopting Keller because her rescuers said she was deaf and potentially blind. However, after researching the care a special needs pup would require, she decided she was ready for the challenge.
And it turned out that Keller was an even better addition to Amanda’s family than she could have ever expected. “Keller and Kai got along great,” she said of the dogs’ first meeting. Because of their bond, Amanda thought it might be a good idea to bring Keller to Kai’s agility training class.
“My trainer was like, ‘Well, I’ve never had a deaf puppy in my class before, but bring her along. Worst case scenario, she can just watch,” Amanda said. Much to the contrary, Keller excelled on the course.
Surprisingly, Amanda said that Keller’s training went more smoothly because of her inability to hear. Without background noises to distract her, she paid more attention to her lessons. Her dog’s dedication to her new hobby was inspiring.
In fact, it was this experience that convinced Amanda to champion the adoption of double merles like Keller. She and a friend who also had an all-white Aussie founded an organization called Keller’s Cause, through which they educate others about their pups’ unique genetic traits.
Amanda hopes her efforts will inspire more families to consider adopting a dog with special needs. “Disabilities are only what you make them,” she said. “If you take that dog and treat it like a normal dog, it will succeed.”
On top of that, she aims to make people aware of the consequences of breeding two merles. The American Kennel Club does not have a policy against the practice, and Amanda hopes their advocacy will change that.
Since then, more than 8,700 people have followed Keller’s Cause on Facebook. On its page, the organization has shared images of double merles in need of adoption, along with success stories from those who’ve brought special needs pooches into their lives. Amanda, meanwhile, has taken her organization’s mission to heart. In 2017, she adopted a third dog – another double merle.