WESTBROOK — Eleven-month-old Pauly presses his nose to the snowy ground as he makes his way around the exercise yard at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland on a bright, sunny day. But even his keen sense of smell can’t save him from occasionally bumping headfirst into walls and railings.

Pauly, a Catahoula mix, is blind and deaf. So are his brothers, Chance and Bilbo.

The puppies – who have white, short-haired coats – arrived at the shelter three weeks ago after being rescued from a home in Tennessee that was filled with animal waste and garbage. Officials in Tennessee say the house was soaked with urine to the point where the floors were caving in.

“There were 13 dogs in total living in those conditions without any access to the outdoors,” says Jeana Roth, community relations manager at the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, “so they were using the indoors as a bathroom. Definitely a rough beginning for these guys.”

The animals were removed by the sheriff’s office and placed in a local shelter. But that shelter, says Roth, couldn’t handle the special needs of the three puppies.

“So the Humane Society of the United States reached out to us (and said) would you consider taking these three brothers?'” Roth says.


Katie Hansberry, the Maine state director of the Humane Society of the United States, says her organization depends upon a network of emergency placement partners such as the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

“It’s wonderful that (they’re) able to take on the additional burden of re-homing special- needs animals like these three from Tennessee,” Hansberry says. “They deserve a loving home after what they’ve been through.”

Roth says they’re more than willing to take in animals with special needs because the community is so willing to give them homes. But this is most likely a first – no one at the shelter remembers having three blind and deaf puppies as residents.

The puppies are now in three foster homes.

Felicia Mazzone, a staff member at the shelter, is taking care of Chance. She used certain scents to help him learn to navigate her house: spraying sage on the walls and basil on doorways.

“After two or three days,” Mazzone says, “he stopped bumping into things. He just seemed to learn the landscape.”


The dogs didn’t have much contact with humans in that home in Tennessee, so it was clear the minute they arrived that socialization would be an issue.

“They were scared,” Roth says. “They got out of the vehicle in our parking lot, and they didn’t know where they were, and they don’t have their eyesight or hearing to rely on.”

But it didn’t take long for Chance to find his footing. His favorite place to sleep is curled up on the couch with Mazzone.

“He likes to be very close to you or close to another dog,” she says. “Even riding in the car … he always has like one paw on me or one paw on one of the other dogs in the back seat. He likes to know where things are.”

Since the puppies had never been outside, they weren’t house trained. But that didn’t take long either.

“It took him three to four days to learn the routine,” Mazzone says. “He’s a puppy, too, and that’s always a challenge.”


Both Chance and Bilbo are ready for permanent homes. Pauly still needs some time to adjust.

The puppies will be able to go to separate homes as long as there’s a dog that can see to help them learn the ropes.

“They need a role model … somebody that they can learn from,” Roth says.

Dogs with special needs are often overlooked at shelters, she says. She’s hoping that won’t be the case with these three brothers.

“Their special need isn’t a hindrance, it’s not a negative thing. It’s just something that they learn to live with. So will their humans.”

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