Today is the first post in a series called The Specials. Every Monday I will now feature the story of a successful special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pit Bulls and black cats. If not for the kindness, courage, and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals would have been euthanized in shelters or perished alone and hungry on the streets.
Special needs adoption is one of my greatest passions and raising awareness and compassion for these animals is at the heart of this blog. All of my animals have been rescues, many of them seniors with special needs. They have arrived with baggage, but somehow we figure it out together. Like Ruby and Pip and Daisy and Cleo (and the list goes on), they have all been beautifully imperfect in their own unique ways and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
I hope these stories will inspire some of you to consider welcoming a special needs pet into your home and heart when the time is right. These special animals have much to share and when given a chance, their gratitude and love is immense.
I first met my friend Cher in 2003. I was working at Red Door Animal Shelter and she was a volunteer. Red Door focuses primarily on cats and rabbits and although she loves ALL animals, Cher is a true dog person. She eventually moved on to work with various local and national dog rescue groups.
When I met Cher, she had a chocolate lab named Chewie. Eleven years later, she has two deaf Great Danes, Yeti and Moby, and a senior pit mix named Chena.
Yeti is an eight-year-old, 150-pound, deaf, male Great Dane. He is also a cancer survivor and suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that causes the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together. He can no longer climb stairs and sometimes needs assistance getting on and off the couch.
Cher rescued Yeti at eight weeks from a backyard breeder who wanted him gone or dead because one eye was smaller than the other. Had she not rescued him that night, there's every indication that Yeti would have soon become a bait dog.
Cher did not know Yeti was deaf until she enrolled him in puppy class a few months later. She was told that deaf dogs couldn't be trained and a few people even suggested euthanizing him. Of course, euthanasia wasn't an option. Instead, she devoted hours to researching and studying deaf dogs and soon became an expert and advocate for their care.
Moby is a seven-year-old, 160-pound, deaf, male Great Dane. Cher rescued him from a horse breeding farm when he was ten weeks old. Unlike Yeti, Cher knew Moby was deaf from the start.
In addition to being deaf, Moby suffers from Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, which means he lacks the proper Enzymes to digest certain foods. He will be on a special diet and multiple medications for life. Moby also lives with Myositis (head atrophy). Right now, thankfully, his condition is stable, but it may worsen over time.
Moby was the third of the dogs to arrive and Cher believes, made them a true pack.
Chena is a nine-year-old, 100-pound, male, Pit-Dane mix. Cher adopted Chena from Orphans of the Storm in 2007. Although he doesn't have special needs like his brothers, because he is a pit-mix, he would face immediate euthanasia in many shelters.
Cher shares custody of the dogs with her ex-boyfriend, Matt. They split all costs (of which there are many) including basic care, food, veterinary expenses, dog walking, etc. The dogs live with Cher, but Matt visits regularly and often comes over to make their meals and take them for walks. Both Cher and Matt are now with other partners, but they have maintained a friendship out of love for their dogs.
One of the top reasons animals are abandoned and surrendered to shelters are because of changes in relationships. Like children, pets are often used as weapons of revenge in crumbling marriages and partnerships. It's very common for one person to abandon a dog or cat at a shelter to hurt his or her ex-partner. New relationships also result in animals being dumped at shelters - a new girlfriend doesn't like dogs or a new boyfriend is allergic to cats.
Having worked in shelters, I have witnessed these scenarios hundreds of times and know first hand the devastation, loss and pain experienced by the dogs and cats left behind. Cher and Matt are shining examples of responsible pet care and have my utmost respect for their compassion and dedication on behalf of the extraordinary dogs in their care.
If you would like more information on adoption and life with deaf dogs, please check out my friend Bernard at A Dog and His Boy. Please consider adopting or fostering a special needs animal - because second chances are amazing whether you are on the giving or receiving side.
If you enjoyed this post, please check out Ruby's story here.