Miriam has been involved with dog rescue for as long as she can remember. She has fostered nearly 200 dogs, including dogs with complex needs. When Lil Rascals Dog Rescue needed a foster for two blind puppies named Aston and Martin, Miriam stepped up to foster them.
Once they were in her care, she discovered that both puppies were also deaf. Determined to set them up for success, Miriam researched and learned everything she could find to teach her how to support them. When Martin was adopted, her bond with Aston deepened. She knew Aston was already home, and ultimately, she officially adopted him.
She started using touch cues and positive reinforcement to communicate with Aston. Miriam taught him to ring a small bell by the door when he needed to go outside. Although he was a great student, Aston would still get frustrated when Miriam couldn’t figure out what he was asking for. After seeing videos of pets using buttons on social media, Miriam knew Aston was the perfect candidate, and she decided to give him the opportunity to use them.
Aston got his first set of buttons on his first birthday. Miriam started out with a practice button to get him acquainted with the device. Then, she placed buttons strategically around his environment, like by the front door and near his water bowl. Because Aston can’t hear the buttons speak the words, Miriam modified them by putting textures on them to allow him to differentiate between buttons and learn what each one represents. For example, she attached a piece of his food mat on the “food” button, a piece of metal that resembles his water bowl on the “water” button, jute twine on his “chew” button, and artificial grass on the “outside” button.
Aston’s Top 5 Favorite Things
His dog brother Dax! One of the first things he does each morning is press his “Dax” button to invite him outside.
Play Fetch! The game goes like this: Mom throws a toy; Dax chases and catches the toy while Aston runs a lap around the yard. Aston and Dax then meet up to bring the toy back to mom.
Yak cheese chew! This is why there is a “chew” button!
Sniffy Walks! Aston will press his “walk” button, then press his nose to the dresser where we store his harness. He sets the pace of their walk, so he doesn’t miss a single smell.
Miriam, a.k.a Mom –Aston’s favorite person is his mom. He follows her everywhere and gets very excited every time he greets her, even if she’s only been away a few minutes.
As for advice to anyone considering adopting a dog like Aston, Miriam says, “Don’t underestimate them—you’ll be surprised how much they are capable of.”
For tips, training guides, product recommendations, dog rescue and fostering information, visit atouchofaston.com. You can follow Miriam and Aston on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook at @ATouchOfAston.