Deaf dog taught sign language finally adopted at shelter after 240 days

A deaf dog has finally been adopted after spending more than 240 days in a shelter home.

For most of that time, the staff didn’t know she was deaf, but once they realized they were able to teach her sign language—a skill that helped her find her forever home for a long time. helped in Now, she is settling down and mastering her newly learned skills.

Zyla’s new owner, Gianna Luciano, described the pairing as an “immediate match” and said there was “no hesitation” that she was the one for him – whether she could hear or not.

White pit mix Xyla, formerly named Aspen, was originally nearly euthanized while at the Bastrop County Animal Services Shelter, but was fortunately rescued by the Austin Humane Society in Texas.

Initially Zyla struggled with life at the shelter, but it wasn’t long until Austin Humane discovered it was for a bigger reason – she’s deaf.

“Determining whether a dog is deaf is not as easy as you might think,” said Katie Kennedy, communications director for the Austin Humane Society. “Dogs are really smart at detecting what a human is asking of them even without a verbal cues. Our friends at Bastrop and our intake team at AHS strongly suspected that Aspen was deaf based on initial interactions, But she responded to our orders when she was initially being evaluated by our veterinarians.”

Zayla smiles looking at the camera.
Austin Humane Society

“The first goal was to establish a ‘yes’ marker – a signal that was shown to Xyla when she had done something correctly. For dogs that are not handicapped, we typically used a clicker to signal when they’ve done something right. For Xyla, our staff and volunteers will give Xyla a thumbs up and a treat or affection to reinforce good behavior. The next command that Xyla learned was “look at me.” This command was hers. Draws attention and turns its attention to the handler. He then learns commands such as “sit”, “down”, “attention” and “wait”.

Xyla’s newly learned commands were displayed at her kennel for potential adopters to eventually be able to communicate with her. Kennedy explained, “Xyla’s training was making her more confident. As she became more comfortable, we began to see her personality blossom — and we soon learned that she was a very loving person. It was very silly.”

xyla and luciano
Zyla and her new boss.
Austin Humane Society

It didn’t take long for Zyla to find a forever home as Luciano and her roommate, who told Greeley Tribune: “It was definitely clear to me and my roommate that this was an immediate match. She wanted to meet us. was extremely excited, and she sat right at my feet and looked at me. There was no hesitation. We knew we wanted to take her out to meet her when we saw that she had been in the shelter for so long, And because she was deaf. I imagine they both go hand in hand, because having a deaf dog can be intimidating.”

According to the Austin Humane Society, it looked like Zyla had a sense that her future was looking rosy, as staff snapped an adorable photo of her smiling while she slept as Luciano was signing adoption papers.

zyla smiling as she sleeps
Zyla is smiling as she sleeps.
Austin Humane Society

“We use hand commands with her! It works well. We also talk to her a lot, even though she can’t hear us. She’s great with ‘sit’ and she knows that When we’re tapping to get her attention vs just petting her. She’s been practicing ‘wait’ and ‘let’ lately. She decides to be stubborn and when she doesn’t want to listen to us So look away,” said Luciano.

“She needs extra love and care. My roommate and I are new to Austin, so we have nothing but time and attention to give her.”

Although Luciano acknowledges that taking care of a deaf dog can be a chore, many owners, who don’t have the time or patience for it, are also finding it beneficial-“[It] removes some obstacles that you will [get with dogs that can hear], Other dogs bark, outside noise, storm, none of it bothers her because she can’t hear it! But along with that, she’s also asking us to get off the counter or out of the trash, so we had to get a vibrating collar to adapt.”

“She’s really the cutest, sweetest animal I’ve met. She welcomes us at the door whenever one of us comes home, and she’s sleeping near the door if she’s not greeting us.” We are extremely fortunate to have her, and I am grateful that the Humane Society was able to take her in and care for her until she found her forever home.”

Luciano was able to adopt Zyla and give her the life she deserves, thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation’s holiday promotion of the empty shelter, meaning the adoption fee was just $25