Last week I shared a blog on Adopting Other-Abled Pets prompted by the amazing Petfinder.com initiative on adopting less adoptable pets.
That blog received lots of feedback, and this past Monday the puppies.About.com blog shared tips about how to help blind puppies. After all, blind pets rarely consider themselves “disabled” and still become wonderful companions.
Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? I encouraged folks to share pictures and stories and today you’ll find some of them in the blog! I gotta admit, y’all made my day-week-YEAR with these heartwarming experiences. After reading them, check out the ASK AMY VIDEO at the bottom of the post for some tips about adoptions and shy dogs.
NATALIE HARTFORD’S “TESS”
Our older animals deserve all the love and attention in the world as much as our puppies do!! I am not sure if you saw on my blog that my dog’s been getting older. She turned 10 this year and just before her birthday, she ruptured the ligament in her knee. She had to have surgery and hubby and I have invested well over 150 hours of physio into her recovery. She’s recovering wonderfuly and at her 9-week check up, the vet said she’s walking amazing and is doing exceptionally well – all swelling is gone – and we can move towards gradual return to all activities.
The 3 months has been hard but the most wonderful thing has also come out of it. Hubby and I both feel more bonded and connect to Tess. We’ve spent more time with her, touching her, working with her, healing her, and loving her…it’s just filled us with joy! And to see her come through this with such an amazing spirit, unconditional love, and happiness – just amazing.
I know that this means her arthritis is going to kick into overdrive sooner rather than later. And I know we’ve already got some hip issues. But I don’t care. She’s my baby and I’ll be with her to support her and work with her as she ages….because that’s what I committed to! Because I love her. Because I am here for her for the long haul no matter how hard or easy it is. If she were human, she’d do no less for me!
KARYL CUNNINGHAM’S “JODI”
[caption id="attachment_2359" align="alignleft" width="299" caption="Karyl with Freckles and Jodi."
Natalie's "Tess" doing well after surgery!
Jodi is the dog I grew up with. She was 6 months younger than me, so we had her as long as I can remember. Half beagle, half who-knows-what, she was the pick of her litter and the best dog a family could ask for.
Now, when I was very young, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. Turned out we had arsenic in our water, which the testing company had told us was safe. I had been exposed to that water before I was born, and drank more water for my body size than my parents or sister, so I was the only one in the house affected. Well, we ended up finding out that Jodi had epilepsy too –The dog and I grew older, and we had a pretty solid bond. Partly, I think, because I knew she had the same disease I had.
She is, by far, the smartest dog I have ever known. It took us a while to figure out, of course, being stupid humans. She … grabbed a big mouthful of straw and dropped it on top of the food to hide it from the birds. Score one for the dog. When winter came, dad kept finding the tennis ball in her water bowl. Then he watched out the bedroom window one day, tennis ball in the water bowl that was now frozen over. She walked over to the bowl, pulled out the ball, took a drink of the unfrozen water beneath the surface of the ice, and put the ball back in. Nobody taught her this – she learned it all on her own.
We cannot forget that the vets said she wouldn’t live to see 10. So, around the time we both turned 10, I started spending hours out with her alone, telling her I loved her, telling her when it was time to go, not to worry because we’d be okay. I promised her, every night, that when the time came I would say goodbye.
And she lived on. She started slowing down after a while, we were worried it was getting close to time to say goodbye… But when that puppy Freckles joined the family, she sprang back to life.Eventually she started to slow down again. One day I came home from school, and my parents told me they had taken her in. . . I was more devastated that they hadn’t told me. I had promised her… promised her every day I would say goodbye, and then I wasn’t given the chance.
I’m told when they gave her the shot, she fought it the whole way down. Mom thinks it’s because she wasn’t done protecting us… was hoping she could teach Freckles how to before she went. I think she was waiting for me to come say goodbye. The vet said she wouldn’t make it to 10. She would have been 17 that spring…
I still miss her. Nearly 10 years later and I still miss her…Some things never go away. (Edited for length, see the whole post here)
There was mom’s old cat Shoebee (so named because he would come up and sit on your shoes to be petted when he was a baby) who was born without a breastbone… and liked to swim in the bathtub as my sister found out once by surprise. Then there’s the recently departed Timbit who we found on the side of the road, who never really fully developed – kept part of the blue of her kitten eyes, never really grew at all, was always a bit sick. And my Simba who has been mostly blind in one eye after an injury of unknown origin when she was still living outdoors. We thought she was going to lose that eye, she never did. She now appear to be going blind in both eyes in her old age.
George …seems to have some neural problems, as well as deformed legs, so she wobbles and flops around a bit. Still hunts, though, but my parents have to watch her because she once fell out of a tree and broke her hips.
[caption id="attachment_2368" align="aligncenter" width="610" caption="Maggie's Harley, a furry blessing!"
Karyl's cat Simba, blind in one eye (maybe both).
MAGGIE ROSENTHAL’S “HARLEY”
I adopted Harley from Downtown Dogs because his story touched my heart; not because my brain was engaged. What was I thinking bringing an adult dog with no known history into a licensed day care setting ? The first time I took him to church, to be blessed, he took off down a ½ mile driveway looking for the highway to Tennessee. The first time I took him to the beach he attacked
a dog two times his size. And the first time I tried to license him in Massachusetts they refused to do so because they didn’t believe he is a lab hound. (They are probably right, but his sweetness won them over in the end.)
Harley is very handsome, except when he falls asleep and his tongue pushes out where teeth should be. Harley is WONDERFUL with children. From the infants to the students who come back to visit, he is gentle, patient, and forgiving. A baby climbing over him elicits a happy thumping tail. Getting to ride shotgun in the school van elicits a happy thumping tail. And dinner ? Ecstasy!
He no longer starts fights with other dogs, because he has learned to read my body language and knows I will be there for him. His willingness to trust is a direct reflection of the love and support of the women at Downtown Dogs. Their prediction that he would always be by my side, however, was wrong. As his confidence has grown he is very happy to take off without me and ignore my first and sometimes, second call. He is the proverbial bull in a china shop, but he does step over the cockatiels, instead of on them. A skill I greatly appreciate.
Adopting a skittish, almost toothless, adult dog and expecting him to adapt to young children twelve hours a day was unrealistic at best. And during the first few months I wasn’t sure he would be able to meet the state guidelines for dogs at day care centers; but he has. He hasn’t stolen a pizza off the table in months. He’s learned to wait outside the doorway while the children are eating, with no closed door to remind him. And he happily shares the couch with one of the four year olds, during quiet time.
What no one knew when I adopted Harley, was that he would develop seizures; making him a physical and mental special needs dog. If being the offspring of bully breeds, being dark, being skittish and almost toothless hadn’t been enough against him, the addition of epilepsy would have removed him from most adoption lists. Thankfully, we didn’t know. And instead of being one more dog euthanized, he has become a full time volunteer at a day care program and a beloved member of the pack.
MICHELLE JAMES, PRESIDENT, DOWNTOWN DOGS GROUP
PUTTING ON THE DOG Amy, I am co-founder of a small rescue organization in Tennessee, the only rescue in our area that focuses primarly on adult and “special needs” dogs. Your post was serendipitous for me today, as I read it literally 5 minutes after receiving an email from a local citizen criticizing our rescue. She wrote, “I really don’t understand the point of saving animals that have broken legs from being run over, or other really bad injuries, and spending hundreds or thousands of dollars for vet bills doing that, when it’s $40 to end their misery and put them to sleep.”
The public, and even some rescuers, often express that opinion to us; it’s their attempt to “fix” our problems of lack of space and funding. It’s so cut-and-dried to them: sacrifice the few to save the many. I try to let such negative comments roll off, but some days are harder than others.
We are SO excited about your special post for these amazing creatures! Since our inception a little over 2 years ago, we have rescued and successfully rehomed a deaf pit bull, a blind dachshund, a 3-legged mixed breed dog, a one-eyed cat, many middle-aged and older dogs (some who were initially feral). We have provided many life-saving surgeries and medical treatments, including several heartworm treatments. We did all of this in spite of advice to spare the resources and euthanize these animals so we could move more puppies out of the area. Our response is always, “There are plenty of other rescues moving puppies – we are here for the ones considered the misfits of the misfit world.” Here are a few of their success stories.
Boy George: Our first “other-abled” rescue is a white pit bull, named Boy George because he looks like he is wearing eye-liner :-) Because Boy is such a celebrity, he has his own video. (Amy’s note: It’s a Kleenex moment…HAPPY tears!)
[caption id="attachment_2429" align="alignleft" width="470" caption="Losing a leg doesn't slow Walker down!"
Harley with a special friend.
Walker: We got a call a few weeks ago about a small dog with a leg injury running loose in our downtown area. Good samaritans had been feeding the little guy, but he was too scared to come near anyone. One of my volunteers was able to catch him. He was terrified, and the injury to the leg was severe: a gash near the joint that was extremely infected. Although Dr. Walker was unable to save the leg, little “Walker” has recovered fully from the amputation and has no idea anything is missing in his life. He is loving life as Melissa’s foster dog, all of his fears have faded away and he is a total social butterfly. Walker will soon be ready for adoption into a permanent loving home.
Hunter: Hunter is also a new face at our sanctuary. A volunteer searching for a lost shih-tzu in the area stubled across Hunter by accident, and called us to say she had found a very sick, starving dog. When we arrived, Hunter could barely lift his head. His bones were protruding, and abdomen severely distended. Examination by Dr. Climer indicated that while only two years old, Hunter had advanced congestive heart failure from heartworm disease; in the days that followed, Hunter lost five pounds of fluid that had accumulated around his lungs. Although the first weeks were touch and go, Hunter’s lab work now looks great and he is well on his way to health! He has been a fabulous addition to our sanctuary, and like all rescued dogs, he seems so greatful to be alive. Most rescue agencies would have euthanized Hunter, but once we heard there was the slightest hope, we knew his life was worth fighting for. We count Hunter among our miracles.
Doc Hollywood: Doc is the epitomy of the less-adoptable dog, as he is a male, black, mixed-breed, mid-sized model – the most prevalent of the rescues. Doc has a white spot on his chest, what I’ve heard called a “southern kiss” because almost all these black mutts in the south have the white spot. Doc was spotted by one of our volunteers rummaging through a dumpster in a very impoverished part of town, snacking on an old apple core. Adoptions are so slow, especially with black dogs, so Doc was with us a year, and became one of the favorites in our rescue family. I wish I had a story from his new adopter, but they have not yet become officially acquainted…Doc was just adopted, via website, by a wonderful couple willing to look past color and give this beautiful boy a new lease on life; he is on his way to his forever home in Connecticut today!
TAINA EDWARDS “VIOLET”
[caption id="attachment_2440" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Violet and Miss Fran."
"I'm going HOME!!!"
Michele James contacted me to send you the story about Violet. Michele found Violet when she was only a few months old. She is 13 pounds and part Dachshund. Michele and I met at a “Downtown Dog Rescue” fundraising meeting. My mother had just had to euthanize her dog after 17 years. She was distraught, but I thought it was a good idea for her to have another baby. At the time she was 76. As soon as she got Violet I took her to my Vet and she referred us to Dr. Miller in Memphis to check her vision. She had been born blind. He told us that we could not have done anything if we had her earlier, nor could we do anything now. Of course we cried, after having her for only two days, he gave us a book to read on “Living with Blind Dogs”. My mother soon after rescued another small dog, Prissy. My mother had a townhouse, which was perfect for the two of them.
My mother passed away unexpectedly last December and she has come to stay with me. The amazing point in this story is I have a large house with 700 acre farm land around us. Because of the size I never intended on taking her. Time after time possible adoptions fell through. My mother’s home flooded so I had to bring Prissy and Violet to my house. Soon after that my yard was hit by a tornado. Well you guessed. Many friends and volunteers came to the rescue and the volunteers never knew Violet was blind! She trooped through devastation and was just part of the crew. Everyone has been amazed that her ”ability” has overcome her “disability”. They have all fallen in love with her. In addition to her I also have five other dogs and you can only imagine who is the boss!
It was close to impossible to find a good owner because of her blindness. I was very concerned about bringing her here and how she would adjust. It just goes to show you how limited humans are in their rationale, yet one small animal can change our perception about our limitations to adjust. Thanks for all you do for the ones that man has domesticated, yet abandoned .
PETFINDER.COM SUCCESS! I’m happy to say that Jane at Petfinder.com reported yesterday: “We have our first Happy Tail adoption story. Gwen, a 4-year-old deaf, visually impaired Great Dane who is a survivor of mammary cancer has been adopted! “I am beyond thrilled to notify you that Gwen has been adopted into a wonderful home of her own,” writes Teresa from Collar of Hope in Bremerton, WA. “Gwen is deaf and vision impaired. She lived for four years in a backyard with pressure sores and without ever seeing a Veterinarian. She was intact and had mammary cancer in one mammary that we had removed. Once all of her medical needs were met and she received soft cushioned bedding and a good diet, she flourished. She is loving, playful and of course goofy as a Great Dane should be.” Gwen now has a brand new home with two other dog companions to keep her company — an older Pomeranian and a 4-year-old Boston Terrier who both just love Gwen. See pictures of Gwen here. We can’t wait to see the new family portrait!
When you adopt any pet there’s a transition period for both you and the cat or dog. With older animals and those that have health challenges, the transition may take even longer to recover physically and/or emotionally. The greatest gift you can offer–after adoption itself–is patience. This Ask Amy video offers a few tips for dealing with shy rescues.
What have I left out? There’s a wealth of experience represented in today’s blog. Please offer your suggestions and best tips, too. After all–it’s all for the pets!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!