This article originally appeared at American Web Media.
When 8-year-old Elmer was finally found his forever home, the Bernese mountain dog finally received long-awaited orthodontic care. His new human, 28-year-old Arizona resident Stephanie Tran, didn’t hesitate in funding Elmer’s tooth surgery. She’d only lived with Elmer for one year but was happy to help this sweet senior – who has made plenty of appearances on her Instagram page in the past year — regain his sparkly smile.
Tran first found the lonely stray a year before, when he was wondering the streets of Peoria, Arizona. The dog was in desperate need of some dental care, and if Elmer’s dental surgery had been delayed any more, he might have even died.
Unfortunately, Elmer’s patchy smile isn’t his only health issue; the senior is also struggling with his hearing, so much so that Tran has embraced some non-conventional ways to communicate with her four-legged family.
“He is deaf and has no teeth,” she says, recalling how the former stray was first found wandering around town. “I needed to have a goofy-looking dog, I felt bad for him and knew I needed to help this dog out,” she said.
People don’t always know what to make of Elmer, who now sports a very unique post-surgery look. “When people see him, they often laugh at first, because of his tongue but then they think he is the friendliest goofball ever,” says Tran.
“The first thing anyone says is that ‘he must be thirsty’ because his tongue is hanging out. I normally laugh and use it to explain the reason his tongue is like that because he has very few teeth.”
Regardless, Tran loves Elmer’s new toothless grin — tongue and all –and now, it seems like the Internet does, too!
“Despite only having two molars on the top and two on the bottom, he is really good at gobbling a whole mouthful of food and swallowing it,” Tran explains.
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“Elmer is also completely deaf, the only time I believe he hears is when another dog is barking really loudly, but if I’m standing next to him or come home from work, he has no idea.”
Regardless, she wouldn’t change a thing about her sweet senior, and happily gives the extra love, patience and attention that Ember requires. “I love hanging with him and wouldn’t change a thing about him,” she says. “He is such a sweetheart.”
Still, living with a deaf dog isn’t always easy — especially when she’s trying to get Ember’s attention.
“It was a real challenge at first because I have never had a special needs dog, so letting him adjust was really hard at first because he couldn’t understand,” Tran says, recalling the challenge of adapting Ember to certain household routines, as well as understanding when he wanted to eat, sleep, and go outside.
“Almost all of the communication between him and I is through body language, signing, and signals that he has learned,” says Tran, who has learned to rely on non-verbal cues to communicate her wishes and needs.
“If I needed him to understand something, I would need to try to show him,” she recalls of this long process.
Watch Ember’s adorable antics in the video below!
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