WACO, Texas (KWTX) A 9-year-old girl who fell in love with and paid regular visits to a shelter dog named Santa that was too big for the apartment she shared with her father got a big surprise recently and it was caught on video.
For the past year Layla Oliver and her father, Chris, have made regular trips to Fuzzy Friends Animal Rescue in Waco to visit the dog named Santa.
Santa is a lab-mix that came to Fuzzy Friends in 2015 as part of a big litter of puppies.
All the other dogs were adopted, but Santa was left behind.
It was love at first sight for the China Spring girl.
"We went in there and she looked at cats and we looked at dogs and puppies and stuff and with no intention to get an animal at all, just to look," Chris said. "And we went outside to look at the big dogs and that was it."
“He just jumped up on the kennel and wanted us to pet him," Layla said.
But there was a problem.
Chris had to tell his daughter they didn't have the right living situation to adopt any pet, especially one the size of the lovable lab.
Because Layla knew she couldn't have the lab, she worked to try and find him a home, even making drawings to hang on the lab's cage, hoping to draw attention to the dog and asking others to adopt him.
And she made regular visits to check up on Santa.
"We'd go Mondays and Tuesdays after school and walk him and play with him and usually on Saturdays and Friday we would go to visit with him," Chris said.
"If it was up to her it could be raining, it could be 200 degrees outside. She always wanted to go see him."
In the meantime Layla and her father had moved to a house, but she wasn’t expecting anything different on what turned out to be the last of her regular trips to the shelter.
She and her father arrived to find a sign that said simply, "Dear Layla, All I wanted was a forever home. I found that in you. Love, Santa.”
She didn’t immediately absorb what she was seeing.
"I really had no idea what was happening," Layla said.
Then her father leaned down to tell her that she wouldn't be making trips to visit Santa anymore, because Santa was going home with her.
"I told them I wanted to make it a secret," Chris said.
"The staff went all out. Got him a cake and made a banner."
Cellphone video captured the moment Layla learned she was adopting Santa.
The young girl cried tears of joy while hugging her dad.