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Non-verbal six-year-old boy and deaf dog learn to communicate using sign language

The Independent logo The Independent 7/01/2017 Charlotte England
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A six-year-old boy who cannot speak and a deaf dog are a “match made in heaven”, according to the boy's mother.

Connor Guillet is able to communicate with three-year-old boxer Ellie using sign language and has become inseparable from the affectionate rescue animal since the family took her in a week before Christmas.

Connor, who was adopted at four weeks old, was born addicted to opiates, and has since been diagnosed with damage to his brain and nervous system, in addition to a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge syndrome, and autism.

“Connor is severely delayed psychologically, physically and emotionally,” Ms Guillet told CBS News.

“He is nonverbal and requires speech therapy. It is unknown whether he has the ability to speak with a limited vocabulary.”

Since he also has issues with motor skills, even using sign language is difficult for Connor, but his mother said Ellie is adept at understanding.

The family, from Florida, already had an eight-year-old boxer when they were contacted by a rescue centre in late December, which said it had a deaf animal that only responded to sign language available for adoption.

“I had a lightbulb go off immediately,” Ms Guillet said. “To think that Connor can sign to her and actually communicate with her made my heart melt.”

Connor and his mother met the dog the next day.

“That was it,” Ms Guillet said, adding that Connor petted, kissed, and hugged the dog, who responded by licking the child.

“She was beyond gentle with him,” Ms Guillet said. “Boxers are known to be great with kids, but there is something definitely special about Ellie.”

Ms Guillet agreed to foster the dog to see how she would interact with Connor at home. The pair quickly became inseparable.

They play tug of war, run up and down the slide in the back garden and cuddle on the couch together, Ms Guillet said, adding that, finally, Connor has found a friend he can relate to.

“It warms my heart like nothing else,” said Ms Guillet, adding that she is now going to adopt Ellie and "make her a permanent member of the family".

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