Photography by Danny Fulgencio

When Christopher Nelson got Van Gogh, he knew that he had to name the 4-year-old Border Terrier-Jack Russell mix after an artist.

“The reason is because one ear goes down and the other ear goes up,” Nelson says, paying homage to Vincent Van Gogh amputating his own ear.

Nelson is a freelance interior designer and the philanthropy chair of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). He is an artist and decorator, and when he takes pictures of his designs, Van Gogh loves to make appearances.

That’s not the only public exposure Van Gogh gets, however, as when he and Nelson take a stroll in Preston Hollow, people often stop them.“They’re like, ‘Aw, he’s so cute. He’s such a little cute dog,’” Nelson says.

For Nelson, Van Gogh is the perfect companion.

Besides being a friendly, loving dog, Van Gogh helps Nelson through everyday life. Nelson is deaf, and Van Gogh can alert Nelson if a fire alarm is going off or if someone is breaking in.

Nelson lost his hearing at age 18 months due to a high fever. Today, Nelson works to bring awareness to the deaf community in Preston Hollow and Dallas through his work at DIFFA, his Instagram and everyday interactions. Nelson advocates for more awareness of the deaf community.

“[Hearing individuals] still don’t know how to deal with deaf people,” Nelson says. “I can communicate with writing, texting, sitting on my phone. We can communicate, but it’s kind of like we have two different languages. They have theirs and I have mine, but you can still communicate.”

For instance, this interview was conducted over Sorenson Video Relay Service, an app where users can receive or place calls through an American Sign Language interpreter. Nelson wishes similar services would be offered at all community events.

“People say, ‘I don’t know how to provide a sign language interpreter.’ No. Just always provide one so that everyone in the community can benefit,” Nelson says.

As for Preston Hollow, Nelson says the neighborhood is pretty deaf friendly, however just like most communities, it still has some work to do.

“The deaf community is always creating ideas and is very zealous in opening that door between two worlds,” Nelson says.

Van Gogh and Nelson both love Preston Hollow and specifically the pet friendly atmosphere it has.

“I grew up on a farm, so we didn’t really have a pet community” says Nelson. “This has more of a community here, so now I’m trying to fall into more of that nonprofit organization and get more involved with pets and animals.”