‘Unadoptable’ Dog to Become Washington’s First Deaf Drug Detection K9

Ghost was just 3 months old when, after being dumped on a Florida street, he was taken by animal control officers to a shelter. No one wanted to adopt Ghost, who was deaf, rambunctious and indifferent to people. Before he barely had a chance to live, Ghost was put on the shelter’s euthanization list.

Fortunately, Swamp Haven knew Ghost deserved a second chance at life. The animal rescue group provides temporary care for “down-on-their-luck dogs” in parts of Florida and Georgia. The staff contacted rescues around the country, hoping to find one that would take Ghost. They and Ghost lucked out: The Olympic Peninsula Humane Society (OPHS) in Port Angeles, Wash., agreed to take him in and help find him a forever home.

OPHS got in touch with Barb Davenport, the K9 Program Manager for the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC). Davenport, a veteran Army K9 handler, has been working with dogs since she was 10 years old. During her long career, she has trained more than 450 rescued dogs to become narcotics-detection dogs. In fact, every K9 officer with the Washington DOC is a former shelter dog.

Davenport is especially skilled in training dogs that have a whole lot of energy, like Ghost, but she had never worked with a deaf dog before.

The first time they met, Davenport knew Ghost had the right stuff to become a narcotics-detection dog. “He was very focused and determined to locate his ball when thrown or hidden,” she told KIRO.

During Ghost’s 250 hours of training, Davenport and Joe Henderson, the K9 program manager for the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, came up with a special sign language to be able to communicate with the dog. They also used a vibrating collar to get his attention.

“The hardest part was for Ghost to be looking at me when I needed to give him a command,” Henderson told ABC News. “They’re still dogs, no matter if they’re hearing-impaired or they can hear.”

Thanks to Davenport and Henderson, as well as Swamp Haven and the OPHS, instead of being one of the 650,000 dogs killed in animal shelters every year, Ghost, who’s now 2 years old, is about to become Washington State’s first deaf narcotics detection certified dog – and perhaps the first one in the entire country, Davenport said.

In January, Ghost started searching for drugs inside Washington’s prisons and other secure facilities alongside his new handler, Henderson, with whom he now lives. Ghost successfully located illegal drugs during those searches, Henderson said.

“He is an absolute working machine,” Henderson told ABC News. “He’s a very high-drive dog with lots of energy.”

Ghost’s hearing impairment – which almost got him euthanized — is actually an asset for this line of work, Henderson said, because it helps him stay focused. “All the offenders whistle and bang on stuff and try to distract the dog, but that doesn’t affect this dog,” he told ABC News. “This dog doesn’t know the difference. It works out absolutely perfectly.”

Photo credit: Washington State DSHS Facebook page


Marie W
Marie W4 months ago


joan silaco
joan silaco9 months ago


Therese Kutscheid
Therese Kutscheid10 months ago

Thanks for that lovely article. Fantastic, that one more dog got a chance to have a permanent home.

Carol Johnson
Carol Johnson10 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Angela J
Angela J10 months ago


Mike A.
Past Member 10 months ago

All it takes is training and never giving up on them

Mark Turner
Mark T10 months ago


Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E10 months ago

3 of my rescued pups are from Washington State !! Thank goodness FOR rescue and thank goodness someone saw the potential in Ghost !! One rescue at a time !!!

Janis K
Janis K10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Janet B
Janet B10 months ago