She’s a one-year old Australian Shepherd who is blind and deaf due to breeding and birth defects.
Plum has become an internet sensation over the past couple of weeks after her owner shared an incredibly moving video on TikTok.
Aiden Mann, 25, posted an emotional clip of the vet assistant waking up Plum by gently blowing on her.
We spoke to Aiden to learn more about Plum and her disabilities, as well as discussing his role as an advocate on the issue of double merle breeding.
Aiden opened up about his journey as a member of the Transgender community, explaining how Plum and his other dogs have also been a support system for him.
You can follow Aiden and Plum on TikTok by clicking here.
1) How did you end up with Plum?
I met Plum through my coworker who was fostering for a rescue. She brought her to work to get checked out and I fell in love with her.
2) Can you give us an insight into Plum’s personality?
Plum is the happiest fun loving dog I’ve ever met. She loves everything and every dog. Just happy to be alive.
3) What is day-to-day life like for Plum given her disabilities?
At first, day-to-day life was figuring out how to communicate and train her. But once we figured out how to do both of those our day-to-day life isn’t much different than any other dog families. We do things a little different but have a routine just like I do with my other dog who doesn’t have disabilities.
4) Are there any activities that Plum really enjoys? I noticed she likes to swim?
She likes to swim, loves to wrestle with her sister and friends. She also loves to cuddle and play fetch by herself with her favorite ball.
5) How has this challenged you as a pet owner and/or vet assistant?
As a pet owner, I have learned more patience with training and learned new ways of training. As a vet assistant, I now have experience with special needs dogs so if we have someone come in with a special needs dog I can help in ways I couldn’t before.
6) How did you start to build your communication skills with Plum? Can you give us an insight into that process?
It was a lot of trial and error. Trying to figure out what she responded to the best. Just like waking her up… at first when I’d come over and softly pet her it would scare her so much she would pee. I tried stomping my feet for vibration and she wouldn’t wake up. Sometimes putting a treat in front of her worked but I didn’t always have treats on hand and it didn’t always work. One day when I got home from work I knew she would pee if I startled her so I tried blowing on her. She woke up fine and didn’t pee and was excited that I was home.
7) Did you expect your viral TikTok video to get so many views and prove so popular?
I had no idea it would get so many views. I just thought it was a cute video and so I posted it.
8) Do you plan to continue to shed light on Plum’s life?
I want to use this platform to help educate not only on Plum’s life but to educate on double Merle breeding.
9) How does it feel to be an advocate for adopting dogs with disabilities?
It’s awesome that I’m able to share Plum’s story and can help people learn from it and maybe show that it’s not so bad to have a dog with special needs.
10) You’re also shedding light on the issue of breeding ‘double merle’. For someone who isn’t aware of this, could you shed a little more light on it for our readers?
Double merle is a term that refers to a puppy bred by two merle colored Aussie parents. Many people are unaware, but when two merles (of any breed) are bred together, each puppy has a 25% chance of being born as a double merle. These puppies have excessive white coloration – lack of pigment – and this coloration causes loss of hearing, vision, or any combination of the two impairments. Most often, these puppies are deaf, with vision impairments ranging from malformed pupils to a complete lack of eyeballs.
11) What’s your favourite comment that you’ve gotten about Plum so far from a celebrity or follow on TikTok?
My favorite comment is “I would die for Plum”.
12) Finally, I saw you’re a member of the trans community. How big a role have dogs (and animals) played in your life journey and can they play in lives of others who are going through similar experiences whether it be providing emotional support or therapy?
The journey of most people who are part of the transgender community is not an easy one. There were many days I wanted to give up due to hate in the world towards me, especially with being out and open about my transition. Lola, my pit Great Dane mix, I’ve had for 5 years and she has been my emotional support animal. On days where I felt like giving up or that I just couldn’t handle everything, she was right there laying her head on me or making me feel better. To this day, Lola still helps me though hardships and Plum has also been a light in my world. Days where I feel the world is crashing down on me, I look at Plum and think, “if Plum can live life so happily with everything she has gone through, so can I”. Also, I think being in charge of another living animal really gives you a reason to get up in the morning when you just feel like staying in bed.