When it comes to dogs with physical limitations, people sometimes exhibit unusual reactions. Some people are scared when they see a dog that looks different or they are uncomfortable because they don't know how to react. Other people automatically assume a disabled dog is unhappy or uncomfortable and (gasp) some even believe that a severe health issue means the end.
One of our goals in Happy Dog Land and with our book Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit is to dispel dog care myths. By discussing the issues related to owning a special needs dog, we hope people will approach the topic with open minds and open hearts.
Today, we're sharing the stories of 5 special needs dogs and the generous people who love and care for them. Their insights will shed some much needed light on the associated challenges and joys, inspire you and make you smile. We also hope the information will open a dialogue and ultimately, help physically challenged pooches find loving and caring homes or keep the ones they already have.
Scrappy Jack is a 15 month old Pug from Kentucky. The poor guy certainly had a very rough start in life. He was physically abused and as a result, had one protruding eye, which had to be removed, and a broken jaw all before he was two months old. Luckily, he came under the care of RePets Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (The photo on the left was taken when he arived at the rescue.)
According to Karen, who has other Pugs, Jack is leery of strangers, which is unusual since Pugs tend to be very friendly and welcoming. "Jack doesn't like being touched by strangers and barks at them." Karen attributes Jack's reaction to the abuse he endured before arriving at the rescue and not to his physical challenges.
Under Karen's care, Jack has blossomed into a happy dog who loves to play. "He has challenges most certainly. Jack does not have good vision in the eye he has left, but he doesn't let that slow him down. He is a very happy, active little boy," Karen observes. She does takes a bit of extra care to safeguard Jack's remaining eye. Karen walks through her yard a few times a week to clear away sticks and other dangerous debris that Jack may not see when he runs.
In addition, Karen has adjusted their games of fetch to account for Jack's sight challenges. "If he doesn't see me throw the toy, he doesn't know to fetch it and I have to show him where it is." Occasionally Jack plays so hard that he runs into a table or chair on his blindside. We're sure that he gets lots of kisses and the tenacious little guy just keeps going.
Karen and Scrappy Jack visit area schools and clubs, like the Girl Scouts, above, to teach kids about pet care. Certainly, interacting with Jack also teaches these children to accept others who may look different or have special needs.
Tazi, is a 12 year old Jack Russel Terrier from Ontario, Canada who lost his sight from Diabetes in 2008. Tazi's mom Barbara-Ann was pleased to share his story because "it's important for people to know that they don't have to put their pets down if they develop an illness."
Neither Diabetes nor age has slowed Tazi down. When it's time for his twice daily injections, "Tazi lays down on his side and lets me do it without a problem," says Barbara-Ann. In addition, Tazi still plays with his toys all the time and enjoys hiding them in his blanket. (See photo on above.)
Beatnik is another inspiring pooch with a wonderful owner. He's a 15 month old Chihuahua mix from New York who was born without front legs. His mom Linda found him on Petfinder and knew instantly that he could live a full, happy life with love and a quality canine cart.
In Happy Dog: Caring For Your Dog's Body, Mind and Spirit, we feature two dogs in carts. Mr. McGoo, left, who passed away earlier this year, was blind and also paralyzed after a mid-life accident. These limitations notwithstanding, Gooey, was "the happiest dogs I ever met," says mom Nancy. "Gooey's" perseverance and joy inspired everyone he met and demonstrated first-hand that disabilities need not curtail a dog's happiness or spirit, unless you let them.
The years of walking on 3 legs has taken its toll on Trio's body. "Her rear leg has bowed out and her back is painful," Sue says. Trio now takes daily pain killers and anti-inflammatories. Once walking became too taxing, Sue purchased a cart from Eddie's Wheels. "The cart has definitely helped Trio walk much more comfortably." Sue also takes Trio swimming for exercise. "Trio loves the freedom that the water gives her. She's so buoyant in the water." Sue opines, "the water allows Trio to move her body without excessive wear and tear or pain. She uses her tail like a rudder. She's so happy, she could swim for hours!"
We hope reading these stories inspire and move you by showing just how fulfilling life with a special needs dog can be. Yes, these dogs have unique challenges, but love, patience and a generous heart is all they need to thrive. And, next time you see a special needs dog, don't hesitate to talk to the owner and meet the pooch.
Many shelters and rescues, such as Angel's Gate, specialize in assisting special needs dogs. In addition, Petfinder.com allows you to search for these dogs. Breed rescue groups are also good resources for information about adoptable dogs with physical limitations.