The Vineland Board of Education honored Cole the Deaf Dog and his owner Chris Hannah recently during a public meeting. Hannah is a music teacher at Dr. William Mennies Elementary School.
Cole is a certified therapy dog and is known throughout southern New Jersey for promoting acceptance that a disability is not an inability. In fact, Cole wears a cape to indicate it’s actually a superpower.
Cole was adopted by Hannah almost six years ago. Hannah has a deaf nephew, Kevin, who accompanies Cole in visits to hospitals, school, libraries, nursing home, and anywhere else where they can spread their message of self-respect and kindness.
The Team Cole project has been featured on the Rachael Ray Show, Good Morning America, Access Hollywood, and other national and Philadelphia broadcasts.
Cole was one of seven finalists out of nearly 400 candidates in the 2022 American Humane Hero Dog Awards, following nearly one million votes cast by animal lovers across the country. The award categories include Law Enforcement and Detection Dogs; Service Dogs; Therapy Dogs; Military Dogs; Search and Rescue Dogs; Guide/Hearing Dogs; and Shelter Dogs. Cole was the finalist in the Therapy Dog category, the first deaf-born dog to achieve that honor.
He was also recently named a CW Television Network Dog of the Year.
Cole is a pit bull pup. Passed up by countless families at the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter because he was deemed “broken.” Cole started impacting lives with his message when he was adopted by Hannah.
Cole works alongside his music teacher dad every day at Mennies School and has become the inspiration for the school launching a unique social-emotional learning program.
Cole has participated school assemblies all over the tri-state area. The program helps students reflect on personal feelings of “brokenness” in a new and self-empowering way and leaves an impression of acceptance and compassion that youth can take with them for years to come.
Outside of the classroom, the Team Cole Project volunteered over 600 hours and received the Presidential Silver Service Award.
Cole quickly became a beloved companion among the residents of the NJ Veterans Memorial Home in Vineland, who unanimously petitioned for him to be named their official mascot.
Cole is the first canine to win the Philadelphia Phillies All-Star Teacher award. Cole is certified through Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs, INC. He is also a hospice therapy dog with Angelic Health Palliative & Hospice Care.