The Kissane family knew they could give Duncan the support he needed to succeed

By Amy Jamieson
Updated September 11, 2015 04:27 PM
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There’s no better way to say it: it was meant to be.

As a PetSmart Charities National Adoption Weekend event in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was coming to a close, Wilbur the dog still hadn’t been adopted — but everything changed when the Kissane family stopped by just to “look around.”

They fell instantly for the deaf pooch who would need a special adopter to help him learn basic commands.

“We fell in love with him immediately, but were not looking for a new pet,” said Naomi Kissane, mom to Reannon and Lucas, and wife to Tim. “I kept saying, ‘no, we don’t need another dog,’ but then something clicked.”

In a lot of ways, Wilbur and Lucas Kissane had so much in common, and that resonated with the entire family. Lucas was born with a speech disorder that makes it difficult for him to process information. After a few years of struggles in public school, Naomi and Tim decided to try home schooling — which was exactly what he needed to succeed. This choice helped them to take a chance on Wilbur, who they renamed Duncan, in the hopes that they could watch him grow, too.

Duncan, who has already found a BFF in Lucas, has learned fast since joining the family. “Turns out that heelers are really smart dogs,” said Naomi. “Duncan is very observant and looks closely at faces, almost like he’s trying to read lips.”

The family have enrolled the pup in a training class offered by PetSmart and with a dog trainer’s guidance, the Kissanes have already taught Duncan the hand signals for “sit” and “stay,” and are eager to start more formal training.

When Duncan’s not adding to his skill set, he can be found hanging with Lucas when he completes his schoolwork. One day Lucas told his mom, “our dog is just like me. I have struggles with reading and he can’t hear.”

Adds Naomi, “For a 12-year-old boy to make that connection, well, it brought me to tears. We totally love Duncan. He melts our hearts every day.”

To learn how to adopt a pet through PetSmart Charities, click here.