Rowan Spreads Awareness About Disability with “Cole the Deaf Dog”

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Last Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Rowan University Student Chapter of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) and The Cole Foundation hosted a “Meet Cole the Deaf Dog” event in James Hall. 

The special furry-friend, Cole, a 5-year-old pit bull therapy dog, came to Rowan to spread his message that “a disability is not an inability, it’s a superpower.”

As a puppy, Cole was considered “broken” because of his special needs, and he was passed up by several families at the shelter. In April of 2017, a school music teacher, Chris Hannah, adopted Cole due to his similarity with Hannah’s deaf nephew. 

A strong bond between the two developed immediately as Cole shocked Hannah with his profound intelligence and ability to understand sign language. Hannah shared Cole with his elementary students and noticed the effect he had on others, helping them show compassion and acceptance toward those who are different.

Hannah, with the help of his students, wrote a comic book with Cole portrayed as a superhero. It raises awareness about disabilities and teaches lessons about conquering fears, gaining self-confidence and accepting others. The book gained attention all over the world and led to Cole becoming an iconic figure in the deaf community.

“We realized that the kids really connected with Cole’s story and learned through the eyes of a dog a little bit better,” Nicole Capella, Hannah’s fiance, said. 

Cole and Hannah have inspired others to view their differences in a new light. They have made an impact at schools, hospitals, veteran homes and have done various television appearances on Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show and Access Hollywood. 

During the event Tuesday evening, Hannah and Capella shared Cole’s story and prompted those in attendance to apply his situation to their own struggles. Hannah explained that Cole’s experiences can be applied to any problem. Whatever an individual may be dealing with, Cole can showcase how our differences can actually make us more powerful.  

“Every kid can piece the puzzle together on their own. They can take a piece of their own story and relate it to Cole’s,” Hannah said.

Near the end of the event, those in attendance got the chance to ask Hannah and Capella about the foundation and Cole. They explained several aspects of deaf culture and shared instances where their work has left an impression on others. The audience also got to meet Cole and watch him perform a few impressive tricks.

Hannah and Capella also introduced 11-month-old pit bull Cece, who is currently in training to become a registered therapy dog. The foundation hopes to have her traveling with Hannah and Cole in the next few months. 

“I’ve never believed in destiny before in my life. However, in the last five years, I can say I am a believer,” Hannah said. 

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