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Meet a Member: Puppy Mill Survivor Rudolph Teaches Kids About Disabilities

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Even for an experienced dog trainer, working with a dog who was blind and deaf was a challenge. Still, Marcia Fishman (MarciaFish) was up for it, and now her dachshund Rudolph, a puppy mill survivor whom she named after the reindeer, is so well-trained that he accompanies her to elementary schools in the Detroit area, where the pair teaches children about disabilities.

Dachshund-lover Fishman, 58, has always made a hobby of training dogs. Her 11-year-old doxie Gunther often came with her to visit patients in psychiatric wards, but eventually it came time for the aging pup to retire. That’s when Fishman adopted now 3-year-old Rudolph through two years ago. Reading about his condition, she thought, “I wonder what I can do with this dog?”

Rudolph, born blind and deaf, started out at a puppy mill and went through four different homes before meeting Fishman. The year-old dog hadn’t been housebroken or trained to do much of anything. He also was having frequent nightmares, and would wake up violently. “He would grab the first thing that was near him,” Fishman tells, “whether it be my leg or Gunther’s throat.” Rudolph also didn’t understand the concept of play.

In the years since adopting him, Fishman has trained Rudolph, now a licensed therapy dog, to sit, to bark when he needs to relieve himself, to walk on a leash and to follow when she touches his face. And in January 2008, Fishman and Rudolph started making their monthly trips to local schools, where children get introduced to Rudolph by seeing him walk by leash around the classroom before learning he is deaf and blind. They have since met with more than 2,000 schoolchildren.

“He loves kids,” Fishman says. “He works better with kids because they’re lower to the ground and softer with him.”

Fishman’s message is that people and animals can live to their potential if only given the chance. She recently wrote a book inspired by Rudolph, called Rudolph’s Nose Knows, featuring a blind and deaf dog who becomes a hero after rescuing a bird that falls down a hole.

“Dogs,” says Fishman, “can do so much more in the world than just cuddle with people.”

For copies of Rudolph’s Nose Knows, contact Marcia Fishman at or 248-770-1494. Click here to become friends with Rudolph on

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