A photo of a Virginia police officer recently went viral after it was shared on the Richmond Police Department's Facebook page.

The picture of Major Crimes Detective Mac Adams and his five dogs is part of the "RPD Loves Animals" project intended to showcase officers and the animals that made a difference in their lives.

But the photo of Adams, who's been with the department for 26 years, and his five deaf dogs touched thousands of hearts. The post has been shared more than 20,000 times.

Adams' oldest dog is Pickles, whom he adopted from a shelter in 2010. Over the next three years, Adams and his wife adopted four more deaf dogs:  Nea, Piglet, Opal and Mortimer.

"We got involved with rescue and networking deaf dogs because a lot of them go un-adopted and end up in shelters for a long time and may be euthanized," he said.

Four of Adams' dogs are pit bulls, one of several breeds of dog in which white coats are linked to congenital deafness.

But Adams says that just because his dogs can't hear, doesn't mean they're disabled.

"Their disability is no disability at all, and I think it makes them better dogs. They pay a lot more attention to you and I think are easier to train because there is no auditory stimulation."

He and his wife use sign language to communicate with their pets. When they want the dogs' attention, they touch them or stomp on the floor, alerting them with vibrations.

Adams, who was recently named a board member of the nonprofit Deaf Dogs Rock, encourages people not to overlook a dog just because it's deaf.

"Deaf dogs are 'Velcro dogs,' meaning that they always have to touch you," he said. "No matter what I'm doing at least one, if not all, of the dogs are right there. They are very affectionate and love just to cuddle."

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