It comes as no surprise the Oxford home of the Balach-Schuesselin family is filled with the sound of music. Nancy Maria Balach is the chairwoman of the music department at the University of Mississippi and sings opera. Husband John Schuesselin is a faculty member in the music department and a trumpeter.
Son Stuart, a high school sophomore, plays trumpet like his dad; senior Mack and seventh-grader Lainey sing. And then there’s Cotton, the family’s 1½-year-old Tibetan terrier. Cotton hears none of her family’s music because she was born deaf. But that doesn’t stop the adorable pup from being a star in the family.
“We are first-time pet owners,” Balach said. “Neither my husband nor I had pets as kids. It’s always been a dream of my husband’s to have a pet.”
The family spent the summer of 2019 in her husband’s native Ohio, but Balach needed to return to Oxford for work, leaving her husband and their kids behind. That was when the family decided the time had come to get a puppy. They drove to Virginia to get 8-week-old Cotton.
Back in Ohio while playing his trumpet, Schuesselin noticed the new puppy did not seem to be responding to the sounds. A test suggested by the breeder — to drop a cookie sheet on the floor behind Cotton — also failed to garner any response.
“She lives in a house of musicians, a loud house,” Balach said. “But she seems just fine. She’s been like a therapy dog for our family, forced us to look at things differently.”
Schuesselin agrees with his wife.
“She just rolls with her deafness,” Schuesselin said.
When they talk about Cotton, they nearly gush about this beloved four-legged family member.
“She is the sweetest and most loving thing, such a cuddler,” Balach said. “She has been such a gift.”