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Weasel, the Earless Terrier

His bright eyes and mischievous antics would melt the hardest of hearts.

But this puppy found himself abandoned because he suffered the misfortune of being born with no ears.

Experts say they have never seen anything like Weasel the border terrier cross - and hope he can find a new home where his disability won't be an issue.

And, despite appearances, it seems the 10-month-old puppy can actually hear, for he is believed to have working inner ears covered by skin.

Vets hope they will be able to let the tiny dog hear properly for the first time by making tiny openings where his outer ears should be.

Weasel was born with skin covering the whole of his head - with no outer ears or earholes. Instead of the floppy ears which his breed normally has, he has tiny earflaps sticking out.

The puppy was taken into a police station in Bridgend, south Wales, when he was just five weeks old. From there he was put into a dog pound before finally being taken to the local Dog Trust rehoming centre.

Workers there named the playful pup Weasel because of his unusual appearance.

But they became bemused by the tiny dog because, despite having no ears, he appeared to be able to hear certain noises.

After examining him, vets believe Weasel does have functioning ears behind the layer of skin which currently covers them.

Veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, Chris Laurence, said: "He doesn't look to have any ears at all, there is no hole into the actual ear although inside there does appear to be a normal working ear.

"There seems to be an ear canal which goes down into the skull. We think the dog can hear a little bit, which would make sense if he has working ears underneath the skin.

"It is a very unusual deformity, I have never seen anything like it before. It could have been inherited from one of the parents, but the more likely possibility is that his mother was ill in the first third of the pregnancy - when the puppy was not yet fully formed and vulnerable to illness.

"In every other respect Weasel is a perfectly healthy and normal puppy - exactly what you would hope for a dog of his age."

An operation is now on the cards for Weasel in the hope of opening his ears and letting him hear clearly for the first time.

"We are going to carry out electronic tests and X-rays to check the ears are working," said Mr Laurence.

"If we get a positive response and they appear to be functioning we will look at making little holes in the skin to open up the skin and help him hear."

While experts look into how they can help Weasel, he will be taught to understand sign language and facial expressions.

He is already learning how to communicate with dog trainers at the rehoming centre and can understand basic signals.

Weasel has an appointment at a specialist veterinary practice in Southampton on Valentine's Day, who can help discover whether creating openings for his ears will help. Beverley Price, manager of Bridgend Dogs Trust, said: "Despite his obvious disability, Weasel is a fantastic dog. He is happy, friendly and really healthy in every other way.

"We're going to do all we can to find a way for Weasel to hear properly for the first time in his young life."

A search for a new home for the puppy has been put on hold until a decision has been made whether to operate on him.

But the Dogs Trust hope that when he is given a clean bill of health they will be able to find a new owner for Weasel.