Austin, TX

Deaf Dog at Austin Shelter Learns Commands Through Hand Signals, Finds Forever Home After 240 Days

L. Cane

Aspen the dog's story begins in Austin, Texas at Bastrop Animal Control, an open-intake shelter that takes any pet and is often crowded.

What Happened?:

Employees at Bastrop suspected that Austin might be deaf, so they reached out to the Austin Humane Society, who could offer Austin the time and extra attention she would need to find a home.

After an evaluation, the Humane Society confirmed that Austin was definitely deaf. Because of this, they suspected that Austin would have extra challenges with adoption, since it would be hard for her to communicate.

Austin Learns Hand Signals:

To overcome Austin's obstacles, the Society taught her to communicate through hand signals and commands.

And the process was not as difficult as you might think. There are hand signals already involved with many dog commands. Think about how you tell your own dog to sit or stay.

For voice commands, a clicker or positive reinforcement is often used. So AHS needed to figure out what the "clicker" would be for Aspen.

They decided to use a thumbs up combined with a treat. One of the first commands Aspen learned was "watch me" so that she would look at the staff and prospective adopters.

Katie Kennedy of the Austin Humane Society explained to People Magazine:

"These commands helped Aspen to engage more with potential adopters, and they made her more confident. As she learned, we started to see her sweet and goofy personality shine through."

Enter Gianna Luciano:

AHS has a "Foster to Adopt" Program which allows prospective families to take an animal home before adopting. When Gianna Luciano and her roommate tried this option, they returned the next day asking to adopt Aspen.

Katie Kennedy told KXAN:

“They came back the next day to fill out the paperwork, and that’s when our staff member snapped a photo of Aspen sleeping. And it was almost like she knew that this was her time, and it was all aligning because she’s smiling in her sleep, which was just so adorable. And so we were all just so happy for her."

Here is the photo. Aspen really is smiling in her sleep.

Aspen, who is now called Xyla, is thriving in her forever home.

Gianna told People Magazine:

"She's the happiest, most cheerful dog and loves every ounce of her new life, and I'm so thankful that my roommate and I were able to give that to her, and I'm thankful that the Humane Society took such great care of her to get her to this point."

For their part, the Humane Society is thrilled that Xyla is finally home, but they stress that every dog is special, saying:

"At AHS, every dog we serve is special in their own way, and they all deserve to find a forever family that will love them for who they are, despite their challenges. Aspen is deaf — but she's so many other things, too: sweet, smart, goofy, and full of love! We are so happy that Aspen is getting the second chance she deserves!"

Here's to a lifetime of companionship for this sweet pup and her new family.

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