I am currently the dog mom of a 3 legger (or tri-pawed as I like to call him) and was once owned by a blind Aussie mix so specially-abled pets are near and dear to me. Whether they come into your life already with special needs or it happens due to age or illness, they capture your heart.
We brought Spock home as a foster and knew he had a severe injury after being hit by a car, but we didn’t know how bad it really was. When we were advised that Spock’s leg would be amputated, we were scared, worried, and concerned about how he would cope.
The first night after surgery was rough because although he was given heavy-duty painkillers, he was still in intense pain and his cries were heartbreaking so I slept on a dog bed beside him for 10 nights while he healed and was finally allowed to walk around normally. Per the vet’s instructions, we were very careful about letting him walk since the bouncing motion could cause issues so I was a vigilant dog mom for those 10 days. Once he was cleared for activity, we were amazed and extremely proud of how well he got around! He had a smile on his face and was ready to rock! The next step was getting him through heartworm treatment and after that, he went from being a very loved foster to a permanent member of our family.
Here are things I have learned along the way from some wonderful specially-abled dogs.
1. Animals Are Resilient!
Dogs and cats have incredible abilities to adapt to challenges and live happy, active, lives. A dog or cat with 3 legs (or even 2 legs) may amaze you at how fast they can run and play just as hard as those with 4 legs.
Animals with rear-end or front-end mobility issues can learn to adapt using a wheelchair and some have been lucky enough to be fitted with a prosthetic limb. Those with vision impairments can learn vocal commands and those with hearing issues can follow visual commands. Even though they often figure things out on their own, it is important to understand your pet's needs and find ways to help and encourage them to live their best dog life!
When my Aussie mix, Cheyenne (1996-2007), lost her vision due to complications from diabetes, we played a game I called “Barko Polo.” I would go to another part of the house and say “barko” so she could find me. She would bark to confirm she was in the game and began her search. Each time she discovered my location she bounced around, wagged her tail like crazy and I gave her a treat (a baby carrot- her favorite snack and vet approved for a diabetic pup) with plenty of praise and hugs. It was her favorite game and very special time we shared.
2. It Might Be Easier Than You Expect!
Quite often, a 3 legged animal will continue on like nothing has happened and can play and run with the best of them. I tell Spock he has less wind resistance and he seems to like that idea…he wags his tail and smiles so I take that as him agreeing. I have even met dogs with no front legs and they were some of the happiest pups ever!
Doggie wheelchairs have come a long way and there are many great companies with quality wheels to fit a variety of budgets. Deaf animals can learn hand signals and some have even learned sign language!
In cases where the animal is blind, there are affordable, specially designed halos they can wear to keep them from bumping into walls or objects. I follow a blind, rescued Husky named Marcy on Facebook and she just became a certified therapy dog! Way to go, Marcy! You can check her out here: https://www.facebook.com/MarcyTheHusky/
3. You’re Helping Those Who Are Often Overlooked
Sadly, specially-abled animals are all too often overlooked by potential adopters because people may think the animal’s needs are more than they can afford or perhaps more than they can handle. It’s true there are some instances where the cost of medications, etc. can be a big factor, but in many other cases all they need are a few modifications, a routine, and a little extra TLC. Giving a specially-abled pet a second chance at love and happiness is extremely rewarding and it feels good to help them! Check out this story of an overlooked dog who found his perfect match!
4. They Will Love You For Your Kindness
Animals know when you help them and will repay that kindness tenfold. You are their hero! While I hope I never hear an animal cry like Spock did that first night, our time together while he healed forged a bond between us and in turn, he has been my nursemaid and source of comfort when I needed it too. Just like animals who appreciate that you rescued them, specially-abled pets often show they love you even more because you gave them a chance and helped when they needed you most.
5. You Learn A Great Deal About Compassion and Yourself
Sometimes we feel defeated, tired, worn out, and we may struggle with illness or injuries. It’s easy to feel down and think you can’t handle something, but when you love an animal who has overcome so much and is specially-abled you can gather strength from their perseverance and they can inspire you to be strong just as you have to them. The unconditional love we receive from animals is an amazing teacher and medicine.
Open Your Heart and Your Home
If you're looking for a new furry friend and want to help a specially-abled pet, please contact rescues in your area. There are so many wonderful pets needing homes; especially those with special needs.
Trey is currently in foster care and available for adoption through Red Collar Rescue of Houston. Here's a little about Trey in his own words. "I'm friendly & like to smile, I like other dogs, I like food and treats, I love to play with my toys, and I'm super cute with an adorable short tail."