EXCLUSIVE LOOK: Hearing-impaired Walter and Julia go viral
By Hugo Guzman
Managing Editor, Foothill Advocate
Eight-year-old Julia Vasquez and her puppy Walter have some things in common — both are hearing impaired. However, deafness didn’t stop the two from driving the internet into a frenzy since the video’s June 28th premier on the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA Facebook page. The video, filmed by 1620 Media’s manager Aaron Kunkel, has more than 246,000 views and almost 9,700 shares.
“He’s one of the sweetest, happiest dogs I’ve ever met,” Kunkel said about Walter. “Of all the things I’ve made, I’m really happy that that’s one of the things that’s stuck.”
Walter was only five weeks old when he first arrived at PHS, last year in December. Too young for immediate adoption, he was placed into foster care. There, it was discovered that Walter was deaf. Although many prospective adopters balked at the thought of owning a deaf dog, Chrissy Vasquez was not such a person. After all, her daughter Julia was also hearing impaired.
“I remember just looking at him, and I just knew that he was meant to be ours,” Vasquez said in 1620 Media’s video, which Kunkel filmed in high definition and slow-motion.
After seeing a Facebook post showcasing Walter, Vasquez jumped at the chance to bring the puppy home in January. There, he quickly formed an intense bond with Julia, who took on a “big sister role”, according to the Humane Society’s Facebook.
The two were featured on another Facebook showcase post, and it was here that Kunkel was first introduced to Walter and Julia. He immediately fell in love with the story, which he says is one reason why PHS was one of the first organizations he developed a partnership with when 1620 Media first launched.
“We loved them and everything they did. We wanted to be a part of that.” He knew an adoption showcase of this lovable pair was worth sharing with the world, so he worked with Chrissy to bring Julia and Walter to PHS for a video shoot.
The video, which was filmed at PHS, showcases Julia and Walter playing and practicing their sign language skills. Walter already understands “sit” and the words for food and water, important skills for any young puppy. Kunkel chose to film the video in slow-motion to showcase Walter’s facial expressions, which he says show the life and energy he has, despite his hearing impairment.
PHS’s Jamie Holeman understands why people are drawn to this video. According to her, it’s all about the human-animal bond.
“To see a little girl have a strong bond with a puppy who shares something in common is really powerful,” Holeman said.
The message people get from that is simple. “There is someone out there for everyone,” Holeman said, echoing the video’s final words.
Julia’s assessment is much simpler. “I love Walter,” she says in the video, in between shots of Walter chasing a ball in slow-motion. “Walter is my best friend.”
1620 Media isn’t finished with the puppy-fueled cuteness, either. Their next project will involve a 360-degree camera and a room full of puppies, with the goal of inspiring “zen and happiness”, according to Kunkel.