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An Unlikely Superhero

Cole, a deaf rescue pitbull inspires acts of kindness

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Photos Courtesy Cole the Deaf Dog & Friends Foundation

Not all superheroes wear capes. Some, like Cole, a deaf Pitbull, have four legs, a wagging tail, and an incredible ability to reach people.

Housed at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter, Cole was passed up by countless families before being adopted by schoolteacher Chris Hannah. Bringing him home, Hannah found himself amazed by the deaf pup’s keen ability to learn sign language.

“The day after I met Cole at the shelter, I put his photo on the screen saver of my large whiteboard,” says Hannah.  The students immediately began asking questions about the little deaf puppy, about disabilities, and about being born different from the other dogs.

“As an educator, you live for those moments when you see barriers coming down and students’ hearts begin to open,” says Hannah. “I knew training him to become a therapy dog was the perfect decision.”



Cole now works alongside his music-teacher dad at Dr. William Mennies Elementary School in Vineland, NJ, spreading the message that a disability is not an inability, it’s a superpower.


“Cole has taught children that it is okay to be different, helped students recover courage and self-respect, and inspired acts of kindness throughout the community.”

As Cole’s story made national news, the duo began to present to school assemblies all over the Tri-State area, helping students to share their similarities and celebrate their differences.

Outside of the classroom, Cole quickly became a favourite among the residents of the NJ Veterans Memorial Home, who named him their official mascot. The pair also launched a Kindness Tour, visiting care facilities to bring joy and hope during the Covid-19 pandemic. And Cole became a hospice therapy dog. Along the way, their story reached yet more people via coverage on the Rachael Ray Show, Good Morning America, and more.  Cole was even named the 2023 ASPCA Dog of the Year.

“Cole is not just a deaf shelter Pitbull, he is a movement for inclusion and advocacy,” says Hannah. “This journey has been one of destiny. We never imagined how life would change after adopting this gangly-legged, giant-eared, silly, and lovable deaf puppy.”


This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

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