The girl and the dog do everything together but Neeva and Baxter aren’t your average pair. “We found out right away after she was born that she didn’t have hearing,” says Chelsea who speaks sign language with Neeva. “Really that is our primary language with her, therefore it’s her primary language with our animals.” her mother adds. Baxter has a special gift: when Neeva communicates with him in sign language, he understands.
Neeva is four years old and she also happens to be deaf. She goes to the New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe to learn sign language. Her mother, Chelsea Goff, went to Animal Humane, a shelter in New Mexico, seeking a dog that would fit in with their family, particularly one that had enough patience to care for Neeva. Then they met Baxter, a mixed-breed rescue who exceeded all of their expectations. Neeva and Baxter have a special bond.
“They had some animals that they thought would fit with our family and sure enough Baxter was one of them,” Chelsea said. “It was kind of that love at first sight kind of thing, so we brought him home and things have been great.”
Neeva’s family got Baxter for free from Animal Humane after another family who fell in love with him at the shelter, but couldn’t have him paid for his adoption fee. “To watch them interact and really have active communication is really spectacular to watch,” said Goff.
“In the deaf community you get a sign name and it is usually assigned to you by another deaf community member, so Neeva gave Baxter his sign name,” she added. Chelsea believes that although Neeva and Baxter’s relationship is silent, it is very powerful.
“She does everything with him,” she says. “He is just always with her. If she’s asleep in bed, we can guarantee that he is in her room with her.”