The Austin Humane Society's all-star sleeper found her forever home right before Christmas.

Xyla has adorable spots, attentive ears, and she loves sporting a nice sweater. But this certified cutie had to wait for 240 days at the Austin (Texas) Humane Society before she was finally adopted—most likely because she's deaf. 

Then known as Aspen, she arrived at AHS from Bastrop County Animal Services. The AHS staff took to training the deaf dog—which is not as hard as you might think!—but potential adoptions fell through and Xyla remained at the shelter for months. Until Gianna Luciano and her roommate showed up. 

"She is the sweetest, most loving animal I have ever been around," Luciano tells Daily Paws. 

white dog wearing a blue sweater sitting on a kitchen floor
Credit: Courtesy of Bissell Pet Foundation

After about eight months at AHS—not to mention however long she spent at her previous shelter—it seemed that Xyla had found her forever home with Luciano, and the AHS staff was overjoyed. They'd trained Xyla and watched the shelter's all-star sleeper miss out on other homes. 

"She deserves a family who loved her as much as we loved her," says Katie Kennedy, communications director for AHS. 

When she first arrived at AHS, staff members began teaching Xyla to follow sign-language cues in lieu of spoken words. Plenty of cues include hand signals, and when Xyla would follow her instruction, she'd get a thumbs up and then a treat as her positive reinforcement, Kennedy says. 

She was trained, but Xyla was still waiting for a home. Without her hearing, she wasn't as reactive to visitors when they stopped by, so AHS staff put up instructions so people could get her attention. The foster-to-adopt program failed to secure her home as well. 

But Luciano and her roommate arrived at the shelter before the December holidays. It was their first stop on their preliminary search for a dog; they weren't planning on bringing one home until after Christmas. Welp! 

They saw Xyla had been in the shelter for a long time, and they decided to meet her outside, away from her kennel. They were the first people to take her out in a while, so staff told her that the sweet dog might be shy at first. Nope. Once outside, Xyla sat on Luciano's feet and looked up excitedly. 

"It was immediate love at first sight," Luciano says.

A white dog with two girls standing near a Christmas tree
Credit: Courtesy of Bissell Pet Foundation

They brought her home the next day, part of the Bissell Pet Foundation's Empty the Shelters Holiday Hope program. The 4-year-old pup adjusted quickly. She's smart, and Luciano uses her hand signals—though Xyla is stubborn enough to not look at her owners if she doesn't want to see what they're telling her. She loves playing tug of war and walking on the trail outside their north Austin home. 

According to her adoption paperwork and her spots, Xyla seems to be a Dalmatian mix. (Dalmatians are more likely than other breeds to be deaf.) She's still great at sleeping, and she'll remain unbothered by noises, Luciano says. 

That's a benefit of owning a deaf dog, but there are minor frustrations. Luciano, 22, says she can't really blame Xyla for ignoring pleas to not jump on the counters. They bought Xyla a vibrating collar to distract her from potential mishaps like the counter-surfing, and says they still chat with her like anyone would with their dogs.

Luciano understands why Xyla's deafness might've dissuaded potential adopters. She needed the right fit, someone who could spend more time with her than another dog might need. Luciano and her roommate had the time and were willing to put in the effort. They say it was worth it. 

"She really is amazing."