Our first California post comes from Fetch - The Paper, a Bay Area publication devoted to all things dog. Last January they ran a great article titled "Looking For A Special Kinda Love? Special Needs Dogs, Extraordinary Rewards." Check out this excerpt...
Adopting a Special Needs Dog
Just as many great families don't match Norman Rockwell paintings, many great dogs might not look like a Norman Rockwell ideal dog. A family with two moms or dads, just one parent, or no kids might be the perfect family for you. Likewise, you might find that a special needs dog is exactly the pet you've been looking for.
A special needs dog is a dog with a physical or emotional handicap. She might be missing a limb, or blind, or have a behavior problem. Whatever the issue, sometimes with just a little extra effort you can help a dog find a home, while helping you find your new best friend.
Think before you leap
Before you adopt an emotionally "needy" dog, one whose main source of comfort and security is you, consider your reasons for adopting. If you're looking for a constant companion, a pup that thinks the sun rises and sets on you and will adore and follow you every day of its life, then a clingy dog might be just what you need.
But beware... emotionally needy dogs do need a great deal of your time. If you can spend most of each day with your dog because you can take your dog to work, you work from home, or you're retired, then you can probably handle the time commitment required. Remember, however, some dogs are afraid of the dark, so even if you spend all day with your dog, they may become even more anxious if you regularly go out at night. If you can't pay her enough attention, she may start acting out: chewing, soiling furniture, or otherwise indicating that she is lonely and nervous without you.Don't get a needy dog if your situation is temporary. For example, if you are unemployed now but plan to find a new job soon, or if you're planning to move in the near future, this may not be the time to bring a dog home. It would be hard on the dog to be adopted, become attached to you and dependent on you for his happiness, and then be given up.
Deb Winters from HandicappedPets.com says the most important thing when adopting an emotionally needy dog is that “a family should be educated on what the needs are. Sometimes they see this cute dog and don’t realize how much extra care it’s going to take, and that’s the scary part, because sometimes they end up giving the animal up again. So, make sure you are completely educated about the needs of the dog and make a decision as to whether you want to take it on.”
While they come with their own set of problems, in many ways a physically handicapped dog can be easier to handle than a dog with emotional or behavioral issues. And a dog with a physical impairment will still love you unconditionally. In fact, “many times they have a lot more to give because they instinctively understand they are being well taken care of, and are so grateful for being given a second chance,” said Holly Stempien Fink, Adoptions Director at the SF/SPCA.
Dogs with missing legs, injured paws, hip problems or other walking impediments can be served by various products. Carts for their back legs, special harness leashes and enforced rest periods can help your dog get around on her own. If you’re thinking about adopting a dog with walking problems, make sure you live in the right kind of terrain. If your house has stairs or split-levels, you might not have a limp-friendly home. Also be prepared to put effort into your dog’s exercise regimen. You might not be able to just turn him loose in the yard to run around.
Adopting a blind dog can be intimidating, but remember that dogs also “see” with their noses. A blind dog will do well in a relatively stable environment, where furniture and general layout remain the same. If you have kids, work with them to keep their toys off the floor so your dog doesn’t trip on a Transformer and take a header down the stairs. Be prepared to spend some time showing your dog around every part of your house so that he can learn where things are.
One truly excellent resource for guardians of disabled pets is HandicappedPets.com. Mark Robinson founded the site after his epileptic dog, Mercedes¸ was put to sleep. Only later did Robinson realize there had been treatment options available for Mercedes. He founded the website to offer multiple resources for people with special needs pets.
Deb Winters from HandicappedPets.com says “We would never say ‘Don’t listen to your vet.’ But we’re here for people if they’ve made the decision not to euthanize.” The site offers a wide range of products, services, support and success stories for and about people who live with special needs pets. You can find everything from dog wheelchairs to holistic healing to pet diapers.“Animals that are classified as special-needs just require a little more love from adopters,” says Holly Stempien Fink of the SF SPCA. “Animals are very adaptable and are able to get around very well with various ailments and infirmities.”
If you have extra love to give, consider adopting a special needs dog. You won’t be sorry.