Mary Motley and Acorn

Mary Motley is a volunteer with Cleveland Animal Care and Control or City Dogs in Cleveland. When she took Acorn home after he was causing disturbances in the kennel and would not listen as he was awaiting an adoptive home, she discovered he was totally deaf. She began teaching him about communicating with her through sign language, and then adopted him. They are now a team helping other deaf dogs to accomplish a happy life.

The plight and the ultimate success of a homeless deaf dog is the subject of a children’s book that underlines the need to accept the differences in everyone, including animals. “Deafinitely Awesome, The Story of Acorn” is a true story written by Bainbridge resident Timy Sullivan as told by Mary L. Motley and illustrated by Jenny Campbell, nationally syndicated illustrator and cartoonist.

A book signing event with the authors and illustrator of the children’s book will take place from 1-3 p.m. Saturday at Fireside Book Shop, 29 N. Franklin St. in Chagrin Falls. While Acorn cannot be there because of severe allergies, everyone will get to see his humorous antics and talents on a video. And his paw prints will be available with the books.

Acorn, an orphaned pit bull puppy, was brought to the Cleveland Animal Care and Control or City Kennel, and no one wanted to adopt him, according to Mrs. Sullivan. He was completely out of control, and no one knew why.

In the book, through words and cartoons, the story of Acorn unfolds as a lost and cold puppy shivers under a Dumpster. The puppy tries to follow a little girl who pets him and walks into a busy street in Cleveland and doesn’t understand why the drivers are yelling at him.

He runs back to the sidewalk and cries because he can’t find his mother, and a good Samaritan walks up and “was moving her mouth in a happy way and reaching out to him with something that smelled so good, it make his tummy rumble,” according to the book.

The woman wraps him up and puts him in her car with a treat and takes him to the City Kennel. The individual giving the puppy inoculations predicts he is going to grow up to be “big and strong and do great things” and she names him Acorn.

He is placed in a cage to await adoption and is scared. To get attention, he keeps throwing his water bowl, soaking the floors with water. He bangs the bars of the cage all day and night and the other dogs couldn’t sleep, according to Mrs. Sullivan who volunteered at the kennel.

Ms. Motley, in the book known as Mary, is a volunteer and she was asked to take him home to give everyone a break. He behaved horribly in the car, barking and ripping up the blanket she had given him. In the house, he makes a mess, jumping all over the furniture. She found she could not get Acorn’s attention or get him to listen.

She put Acorn to bed and the next morning when she went to check on him, he was sleeping and didn’t move when she called his name. She touched him and he looked up. That is when she realized that Acorn was deaf, later confirmed by the veterinarian.

Mary, a teacher in her professional life, offers to keep Acorn at her home until the right family could be found to adopt him. With research, she begins teaching him sign language. Within two weeks, Mary teaches the dog signs for “watch me,” “good job” as well as “sit,” “come” and “stay.”

When it came to adoption however, no one understood his language, and he had no idea what they were saying. Mary then adopted him. Love transformed him from an incorrigible puppy no one wanted to a smart, attentive companion. Acorn and Mary are a team now helping other deaf dogs find forever homes. He loves meeting people and other dogs while on walks, she said.

The book notes that Acorn was the first known deaf dog adopted from Cleveland Animal Care and Control, but is not the last, Mrs. Sullivan said. Ms. Motley is an advocate for the deaf dogs that end up at the kennel and she mentors those who adopt the dogs. Acorn is famous all over the country due to his own Facebook page “Deafinitely Awesome – The Adventures of Acorn.” He appeared in two 2019 calendars.

Ms. Motley noted to the book creators that with Acorn’s movie star looks and wicked sense of humor, he proves every day that being deaf is not a limitation, and that shelter dogs make wonderful family pets.

Mrs. Sullivan writes the “Senioritis” column in the Chagrin Valley Times and is the former executive director of the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village and co-founder of the PetFix Northeast Ohio low-cost spay and neuter clinic. She has been a volunteer at Cleveland Animal Care and Control for the past four years.

Ms. Campbell is the writer and cartoonist of the nationally syndicated cartoon strip “Flo and Friends” and is an illustrator of children’s books, including five of the “Max and Annie” series by author Sandra Philipson. She also does pro-bono work for several animal welfare organizations including Rescue Village in Russell Township, PetFix and for Cleveland Animal Care and Control.

Mrs. Sullivan said she is grateful to Ms. Motley for “inviting me into their world. It has been an honor to tell the story of this truly awesome dog and his equally awesome ‘mom.’”

She thanks illustrator Ms. Campbell for “so perfectly capturing Acorn’s big personality in her drawings.” She also thanks designer Heidi Wormser for “bringing our book to life.”

“Deafinitely Awesome” is available on and at select local retailers. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to the CITY DOGS adoption program of Cleveland Animal Care and Control.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.