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A different kind of Easter egg hunt

CENTRAL POINT - Folks who stopped by Pfaff Park Saturday morning found an Easter egg hunt of a different breed.

Nearly 50 canines and their doting companions came with Easter baskets to meet old friends and hunt plastic eggs stuffed with doggy treats.

The first Dogs for the Deaf Easter Egg Hunt was part of a yearlong celebration of the non-profit organization's 25th year as well as a kind of class reunion for what are known as "career change" dogs.

Former classmates greeted each other with happy barks, sniffed to catch up and wagged their tails as they uncovered pleasant smelling eggs.

Though most dogs trained at Dogs for the Deaf go on to serve as hearing dogs, director Robin Dickson explained that some "students" are unable to complete their training.

Reasons for a career change can range from medical problems to personality conflicts. Sometimes a dog decides on its own that a career as working pup just isn't for him.

Those who don't graduate as hearing dogs are assigned to carefully screened families for another career: as carefree, loving pets.

Karen and Doug Jacobsen of Medford adopted Muffet, a mid-size Airedale mix with big brown eyes, floppy ears and loose black curls, as a puppy when they discovered she simply did not like being alone.

"She got depressed in the kennels," explained Karen Jacobsen as she ran her fingers through Muffet's curls.

"She didn't like to be isolated during the training. She just wanted to be with people all the time."

"If you ask me," added Doug Jacobsen, "not liking to be in a cage is a sign of a typical healthy dog personality. The kind that makes a good family dog."

GiGi, a black cocker-poodle mix adopted by Teresa Pastor of Medford, sported a red tutu, hair bow and perfectly manicured nails for her "high school reunion."

"That's how you dress when you go to your high school reunion," Pastor joked. "Of course she's gained weight since she was in school, but she didn't have time to diet."

Medford puppy raiser Sue Vannatta and Bailey, a hearing dog in training, showed up to hunt for eggs after Saturday puppy classes.

A 1-year-old standard poodle, Bailey soon will go to work and help someone who is hearing- impaired have greater independence.

While giving Bailey up will be sad, his partner said it was all for a good cause.

"It's going to be hard to let him go," Vannatta said. "Very hard.

"But if it's going to help someone, then it's worth it," she added as Bailey wrapped one paw around the leash and pulled his partner along.

Medford resident Bjorg Norstraum, who showed up with a pair of Shih Tzus, said she wound up with her career-change dog because he took a liking to his foster mom.

Bennie, a tan and white 5-year-old, was living with Norstraum during training. Norstraum liked him so much she went to a breeder and got her own Shih Tzu: a gray and white 4-year-old she calls Teddie.

Just as Teddie was introduced to his new home, Bennie made a career decision on his own behalf.

"He just decided he didn't like to work anymore," Norstraum said. "He was too bored, so he went and got himself fired. He thought to himself, 'I'm gonna live with that woman 24/7.' And that's exactly what he did."

Dickson said the event was such a success it could be open to the public next year.

"Everything just turned out great," she said. "They're all like one big family. They all know each other, so getting together like this was a lot of fun."

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.

A different kind of Easter egg hunt