Deaf Rescue Dog Adopted by Speech Pathologist Is Learning Commands in Sign Language

Sailor started learning American Sign Language commands at Best Friends Atlanta before being adopted by his new family

Deaf dog adopted
Photo: Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Sailor has found a family that speaks his language.

The deaf, blue-eyed dog caught the attention of speech pathologist Allison Arnold and her partner when the couple was scrolling through Best Friends Animal Society's pet adoption page.

"We’ve always had a soft spot for animals, especially those that have been abandoned, have difficult circumstances, or have special needs that require more care," Arnold told Best Friend Animal Society about why she adopted Sailor. "When we saw Sailor and learned he was deaf, we knew he was the one."

Arnold, who has experience working with kids who are deaf and hard of hearing, was ready to help the puppy navigate life without sound. She found that Sailor had a head start on training and socialization thanks to Best Friends Atlanta, the shelter where Arnold adopted the pup.

A staff member at the shelter did research on training dogs using American Sign Language (ASL) and created handouts filled with deaf dog training tips and hand signals so "everyone was on the same page and teaching Sailor the same things," according to Best Friends.

While Sailor was easily distracted at first, he picked up the new commands quickly, especially once he realized treats were included as a reward.

Deaf dog adopted
Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

From the shelter, Sailor moved into a foster home where he continued to practice and learn new ASL skills, and it was here that Arnold and her partner found him. After learning the dog would be leaving his foster home to go to an adoption event, the couple marked the day on their calendar so they could go and meet him. It was an instant connection.

"Who wouldn't love that goofy smile and the way his whole-body wags when he meets you?" Arnold said of the moment.

Shortly after this meeting, Sailor moved in with Arnold and while there was a "transition period" that required "patience, creativity, and a lot of laughter", the dog settled into his new home after a few days.

Deaf dog adopted
Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Now that Sailor is comfortable in his forever home, Arnold has started introducing him to more ASL training, which the pooch continues to enjoy. Arnold also changed Sailor's name to Thomas, since it is easier for the dog to understand the signs for Thomas.

Deaf dog adopted
Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

Sailor seems to be smitten with his new family, which includes two dog siblings that he loves to play with. Arnold is looking forward to giving him a whole lifetime of love and attention.

"His deafness doesn’t hold him back from anything," she said. "He just adapts and continues enjoying life. That's exactly what we should all be doing as well."

Updated by Kelli Bender
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