Meet Wilbur, AWLA’s Deaf and Definitely Adored Canine Resident

Meet Wilbur, AWLA’s Deaf and Definitely Adored Canine Resident



One of the AWLA’s longest-standing residents, Wilbur – a roughly five-year-old neutered male dog – is craving a forever home. 

Wilbur – a 60-pound “goofy, cuddly” Pitbull mix – came into the AWLA’s care on June 12 and has since been in and out of short-term foster care with AWLA volunteers. According to AWLA Senior Communication Specialist Chelsea Jones, each of his foster families has noted all the qualities that would make him a great forever companion. 

“He does really well every time he goes to foster, but this time of year, most people can only foster for short-term stints,” Jones said. “He just came back to the shelter from his most recent foster family, who reiterated everything we’ve heard about him when he’s in a home: that he is just a complete and utter goofball and you never have a day where you don’t laugh with him in your house. He’s convinced he’s 20 pounds because he wants to be on top of you all the time, he’s so snuggly.”

He is so generous with cuddles that, as his last foster wrote, “everyone who has come in contact with him has adored him.”

Wilbur has also demonstrated other qualities that would make him a desirable permanent companion.

“We’ve confirmed that he’s fine being left in the house by himself and he is pretty much house trained,” Jones said. “He gets the zoomies once or twice a day, which is one of the best things to watch. In his most recent foster home, he has met some kids and other dogs and has done very well.”

Initially, the AWLA thought Wilbur would be best suited in a one-dog household, but the team now would be open to a home with other dogs if it seems like a good fit.

If you look at Wilbur, you – like his former fosters and AWLA staff members – just might be taken by his oversized, rabbit-like ears.

“He likes to burrow under blankets, and we’ve seen pictures where he’s so far under the covers but his ears are still sticking out,” Jones said. “It’s irresistible.”

And while his ears may be irresistible, they serve no function beyond the aesthetic: Wilbur is completely deaf, making him the only deaf dog that the AWLA has had in years. 

Still, this doesn’t stop Wilbur from living life as a normal dog – either at the shelter or in foster homes. Humans working with him just need to communicate with hand signals instead of their voices.

“He is learning sign language,” Jones said. “We and our fosters have been using American Sign Language (ASL) for him to sit and follow other commands, and he’s working on those and doing very well.”

Jones emphasized that people should not shy away from adopting a deaf dog.

“It’s the same as teaching a non-deaf dog tricks – you just don't use words,” she said. “Actually, we often tell people that dogs do better with hand signals than words. You just have to get used to not expecting them to respond to sounds. It’s getting accustomed to using hand cues for him to tell him that he has done something correctly or incorrectly.”

Whoever Wilbur’s lucky adopter will be will also benefit from the work he’s been doing with a professional trainer.

“He has already been working with a trainer who specializes in deaf dogs and whoever adopts him will have some funds from AWLA to continue that work,” Jones said.

While his forever family will get the enormous amount of love that Wilbur has to give, they will have to be patient with him – as any dog requires weeks, and sometimes even months, to settle into a new home. This is especially the case, as Jones said, for dogs like Wilbur who have been shuffled around so much.

“He has been in and out of shelters, which is normal when you’ve been with us for this long [nearly four months] and with fosters being only available for short periods,” Jones said, “There is a lot of disruption in his daily life. He has to get used to one routine, and then another. Getting people to understand that any dog will need a couple weeks or even longer to settle into a new home, there are a lot of unrealistic expectations. A dog needs time to adjust and I think he’s just going to need a little bit of time to settle into a new home and get into a routine. He’s going to settle in really nicely when that happens. In no time, he’ll want to sleep in the bed under the covers with you. All he needs is understanding – not only that he needs some time, but also that, because of his deafness, there is more we as people need to do to connect with him.”

She added that Wilbur’s future owner should not have any cats.

Wilbur is currently being housed at the AWLA’s shelter, and everyone is hoping that his next placement will be the place he ultimately calls home.

“He is a really nice, special dog; he’s just been through a lot and needs someone to give him a chance,” Jones said.

To learn more about Wilbur, visit