Special Indeed

Posted by Pia

While I always love to hear about an animal being adopted from the shelter, the stories of special needs animals being given a second chance especially warm my heart! Meet Darla....

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My dear friend Priscilla has a soft spot for these cases as well, which is how she ended up adopting the amazing Miss Darla.

1 My dear friend Priscilla has a soft spot for these cases as well, which is how she ended up adopting the amazing Miss Darla.

Darla’s back legs are paralyzed ...

2 Darla’s back legs are paralyzed ...

...but that doesn’t seem to bother her much!

3 ...but that doesn’t seem to bother her much!

...and it certainly hasn’t prevented Priscilla and her husband Micky from taking her everywhere,

4 ...and it certainly hasn’t prevented Priscilla and her husband Micky from taking her everywhere,

Darla was brought to a public shelter after having been hit by a car.  With no tags or microchip to identify her, the shelter was going to put her to sleep as they had limited resources and did not believe anyone would adopt her.

5 Darla was brought to a public shelter after having been hit by a car. With no tags or microchip to identify her, the shelter was going to put her to sleep as they had limited resources and did not believe anyone would adopt her.

Priscilla's friend Christi Metropole, who founded The Stray Cat Alliance, a rescue group for cats, happened to be at the shelter that day saving another sweet soul in need.

6 Priscilla's friend Christi Metropole, who founded The Stray Cat Alliance, a rescue group for cats, happened to be at the shelter that day saving another sweet soul in need.

Instead of seeing a paralyzed dog in front of her, Christie saw a lovable animal who needed a second chance. She immediately brought her to her vet, who assessed her as a perfectly healthy dog who would just need a patient, loving human to help her adjust to life with 2 rather than 4 functioning legs.

7 Instead of seeing a paralyzed dog in front of her, Christie saw a lovable animal who needed a second chance. She immediately brought her to her vet, who assessed her as a perfectly healthy dog who would just need a patient, loving human to help her adjust to life with 2 rather than 4 functioning legs.

When Priscilla learned that Darla was recuperating in a cage at the vet, she offered to foster her and help her adapt to her new circumstance.

8 When Priscilla learned that Darla was recuperating in a cage at the vet, she offered to foster her and help her adapt to her new circumstance.

And as you can see....with the help of some accepting siblings, she quickly adapted and became a permanent resident of Chez Priscilla! Animals are amazingly intuitive and often assist their disabled siblings in ways we'd never predict.

9 And as you can see....with the help of some accepting siblings, she quickly adapted and became a permanent resident of Chez Priscilla! Animals are amazingly intuitive and often assist their disabled siblings in ways we'd never predict.

My 3-legged kitty Olive quickly enrolled the help of my Max. When Olive has an itch on her right ear, you can see a twitch where her back leg -- which she once used to scratch that ear -- used to be. That's when Max or I will step in and scratch the itch. Isn't that what friends and family are for?

10 My 3-legged kitty Olive quickly enrolled the help of my Max. When Olive has an itch on her right ear, you can see a twitch where her back leg -- which she once used to scratch that ear -- used to be. That's when Max or I will step in and scratch the itch. Isn't that what friends and family are for?

Animals really don't see limitations where humans do. When I fostered Milton (above) who also had limited use of his back legs...

11 Animals really don't see limitations where humans do. When I fostered Milton (above) who also had limited use of his back legs...

I was amazed how he did not let this slow him down a bit.  He used his back legs in other ways, e.g. to prop himself up and for balance!

12 I was amazed how he did not let this slow him down a bit. He used his back legs in other ways, e.g. to prop himself up and for balance!

Frankly, it's really us humans who need to rethink things and do the adapting. A little creative problem-solving goes a long way! Just ask Darla how well her humans have adapted! Here, Darla takes Micky for a stroll.

13 Frankly, it's really us humans who need to rethink things and do the adapting. A little creative problem-solving goes a long way! Just ask Darla how well her humans have adapted! Here, Darla takes Micky for a stroll.

And there are plenty of great resources and tools out there, such as HandicappedPets.com, to manage any kind of disability -- although animals often do just fine without them. Milton much prefers to prop himself up and walk without the cart but it's helpful for longer jaunts.

14 And there are plenty of great resources and tools out there, such as HandicappedPets.com, to manage any kind of disability -- although animals often do just fine without them. Milton much prefers to prop himself up and walk without the cart but it's helpful for longer jaunts.

So really it's us 2-legged humans who have a lot to learn.

15 So really it's us 2-legged humans who have a lot to learn.

And that learning starts with an open heart...and lap!Here, Pooh teaches Pia a few things over a cuddle.

16 And that learning starts with an open heart...and lap!Here, Pooh teaches Pia a few things over a cuddle.

Animals like Darla have plenty to teach us - not only about what resources reside in them but those we have available within us! Proud mama Priscilla no longer sees Darla as limited. In fact, she views her as quite limit-less and can't imagine a life without her.

17 Animals like Darla have plenty to teach us - not only about what resources reside in them but those we have available within us! Proud mama Priscilla no longer sees Darla as limited. In fact, she views her as quite limit-less and can't imagine a life without her.

Jolie- Husky House - Bridgewater, N.J.This cute fur ball has Cushings which is managed with 1/4 of a pill 2 times per week. (See the end of the post for Jolie's adoption info.)

18 Jolie- Husky House - Bridgewater, N.J.This cute fur ball has Cushings which is managed with 1/4 of a pill 2 times per week. (See the end of the post for Jolie's adoption info.)

Billy - Stray Cat Alliance - Los Angeles.Billy is deaf and was found hit by a car not once but twice!He has fully recovered and simply wants a loving and safe home to call his own. He is super sweet and loves other kitties.(See the end of the post for Billy's adoption info.)

19 Billy - Stray Cat Alliance - Los Angeles.Billy is deaf and was found hit by a car not once but twice!He has fully recovered and simply wants a loving and safe home to call his own. He is super sweet and loves other kitties.(See the end of the post for Billy's adoption info.)

Harold- Sugar Mutts Rescue- Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, this little snuggle bug ended up at a city shelter when his human passed away. He has 3 legs and gets around just fine! (See the end of the post for Harold's adoption info.)

20 Harold- Sugar Mutts Rescue- Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, this little snuggle bug ended up at a city shelter when his human passed away. He has 3 legs and gets around just fine! (See the end of the post for Harold's adoption info.)

Chumani - Red Hook Dog Rescue- Brooklyn, N.Y.This amazing and sweet pooch is both blind and deaf. She loves people and other dogs. (See the end of the post for Chumani's adoption info.)

21 Chumani - Red Hook Dog Rescue- Brooklyn, N.Y.This amazing and sweet pooch is both blind and deaf. She loves people and other dogs. (See the end of the post for Chumani's adoption info.)

"Special needs" actually covers a broad spectrum of conditions and abilities. Some special needs animals require continued care such as assistance with walking or ongoing medication for conditions like diabetes or seizures. Others require little or no additional care. While animals who are deaf or blind occasionally need some extra protection or guidance, they typically adapt remarkably well, and few humans would even detect their limitations. Similarly, the loss of one limb typically does not limit an animal at all. (Be sure to check out the special needs cuties for adoption in today's photo gallery)

While adopting one of these very special creatures is a great idea, one can also foster them for local rescue groups. Finding temporary foster homes for these animals is always a huge need and of great help as they are being fully assessed or recovering from a procedure or amputation. If you’d like to adopt or foster a special needs animal in your area simply check the ‘special needs’ box when searching for your new best friend on Adopt-a-Pet.com

Another great reason to consider adding a special needs animal to your family (provided you are ready and equipped to do so) is the invaluable lessons it conveys to your human children. As I have said before, children learn far more from what we model in our own actions than through what we tell them.

Opening your heart and home to an animal with special needs speaks volumes about the value you place on life, on your fellow creatures and on making a positive impact on the world around you. Offering your love and help to those who others might shun or discard sends a powerful message: that you do not judge others based on appearance or ability, but on what lies beneath the surface. This experience provides a child with a tangible example of what it means to be a compassionate and responsible adult. And even a young child can understand how this kind of acceptance extends to race, class, religion, and other differences.

While a "special needs" animal might appear to have some limitations, there is in fact no limit to what they have to teach us. But it is only with an open heart that we can receive the wisdom they have to offer.

In kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Some great resources:
HandicappedPets.com
BlindPets.com
Deaf Dog Education Action Fund

Some adoptable special-needs cuties from our gallery:

Jolie, from Bridgewater, New Jersey

Billy, from Los Angeles

Harold, from Brooklyn

Chumani, from Brooklyn

Comments (10)

  • Dr. Pia and Priscilla, you two are really special ladies, and your charges are so lucky to have you! Our sis Sadie managed quite well even though blind with cataracts due to diabetes, so we know obstacles can be overcome. Happy Birthday to darling Sharky, 5 yrs old on Feb. 18! Truman just turned 14 today and we all enjoyed watching the dog show, especially the Frenchies and the Chow-Chows. Love to all animal lovers everywhere.

  • wonderful and heartwrenching story of these beautiful animals...I just got an email of a kitten with an eye missing and is now being helped...I can't imagin how many animals like this are out there...God Bless them all and those that take care of them a Double Blessing.

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    It’s so sad that many people will just “abandon” pets with special needs. Mommy and daddy have had other Chow Chow’s before they got me. The one before me, Kody, had epilepsy. This usually doesn’t show up until the animal (dog) is about three years old. The doctor told them that they could give their pet medication which is the same as used by humans for the same condition. The dosage must be monitored all the time and changed often. They didn’t put their Chow down but instead took good care of him giving him his medicine three or four times a day. After two years of this attention, Kody died from this condition; his heart wasn’t strong enough. His birthday is just one day before mine. When mommy took me to see this doctor, for the first time, he looked me in the eyes and told me that I didn’t know just how lucky I was. I’m so happy having someone who will take care of me no matter what happens.
    Catch you later Kirby.

  • Hello Ladies & Dr. Pia,
    This is such a great story with a happy ending for Darla. I am a special needs guy and I would be so hurt if something happened to Mom & Dad and people would just say, "that's it for him." How horrible and scarey for these pups. Mom and Dad have shown me photos of Cinder, one of the family's dogs through the years and she had to have a back leg removed due to cancer. Some people would probably have just put her down, but Mom and Dad did not think twice about it,and saved her, and she had 3 more years before her time with them was over. Thank goodness there are lots of good people still to help our friends.
    Love & licks,
    Basil

  • The thing that would absolute KILL me in having a deaf animal (being drawn to little kittiekittieBilly) is that it couldn't hear me tell it that mommie loved it. I tell my Mandy a gazillion times a day that mommie loves her - to look how beautiful she is (as we stand before a mirror with her in my arms), or that God made her sooo beautiful (her calico markings are her very own, unlike any other cat's...)

    I absolutely implicitly love my Mandy. I thank the Lord for her (and share that without shame.) She is a beautiful awesome creature, and I often pray and ask God for her continued good health, especially since our recent painful loss of our dear sweet Edgar boy.

    God bless a-n-y animal in need, whether it be healthy OR disabled. His eye is on the sparrow and knows when one falls from the sky - the Bible tells us so, and He surely has compassion for all other animals, as He created them and even deemed that it was good.

    =^..^=

  • Dr. Pia, Thanks again for another thoughtful eye opening blog. It is so wonderful to know that more people are adopting animals that have special needs. I have had 3 dogs with special needs that no one was aware of until I had them for a while. I had a mini- schnauzer who used to faint whenever she got overly excited and had to always watch her carefully. I got my silver dapple dachshund when she was 5 and was to be put down for being too fat. It turned out that she had canine Cushings. Watching what she ate was very important. She also had a herniated disk that I didn't know about and it finally ruptured when she was almost 10. My little Dudley Do Right has a tracheal collapse once in a while, extremely sensitive ears and little knees that pop out almost daily. Otherwise he does quite well, but I watch him like a hawk. Thanks again for sharing. Jan

  • Love this blog! You are such amazing people and I love that you bring so much awareness to you readers about adoption and animals special needs. Certainly warmed my heart!

  • Thank you for a wonderful message about how elderly, disabled and injured pets can continue to lead happy, healthy, active lives. We will share your blog with our many supporters in our social networks, and we invite your readers to join in on the discussion at our help and advice forum where caretakers of handicapped pets gather to discuss the unique challenges and special rewards of caring for their companions - http://handicappedpet.net/helppets/

  • Don't know where else to post this comment, so if I have it wrong, please excuse!

    I LOVE the Purina offer to donate up to $50,000 for shelters in return for Facebook sharing. I've been sharing the animals in my local shelters but tonight cannot get the link from your site to FB to work, and my "shares" are not being posted on FB. And now it's the weekend! If someone could take a look at that link, I'd really appreciate it. If it's just me, I apologize if I've wasted anyone's time. But please, I do want to continue to help the shelter animals!

  • Thanks so much for pointing out that "special needs" doesn't mean any less of a quality of life for our amazing animals!

    As we like to say at our community for three legged dogs and their pawrents, Tripawds.com,, we might be missing a leg, but we're still all dog!

    Keep up the great work!

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