You know the scenario. You’re at the supermarket and you round the corner aisle and suddenly a huge black dog; a German Shepard or maybe even a Rottweiler, confronts you. The first thought that flashes through your head is one of alarm and then in an instant you realize that it is a service dog that is helping a disabled person regain some of their independence. You wonder at how the dog is perfectly focused on his work, obeying commands and ignoring all the unnecessary sensory input that is going on around him. And you know that is hard for a canine to do. But have you ever wondered what would happen if the situation were reversed and it was the animal that was disabled instead of the human?
When you see that new little puppy in the window or down at the animal shelter, most of us envision a happy, healthy pet. Taking care of any pet requires a lot of time and money and we want to think that it is well spent. We are even warned about adopting pets from questionable sources that may be ill or have a history of abuse. So you can imagine how difficult it can be to adopt out pets that have a handicap. A handicapped pet is one who has a condition that cannot be cured and must be managed with some kind of medication or therapy.
Of the average 300 to 500 animals that your typical SPCA has, usually about ten percent of them qualify as being disabled in one way or another. One good trend is that at a lot of the shelters, people are becoming more educated and looking at the shelters instead of breeders to adopt a pet. This results in fewer pets being at the shelter in the first place and allows more time for the staff to look after and work with the less fortunate pets to get them ready for adoption.
Adopting a disabled pet does require a little more time, money and patience, but it can result in a very good, loving pet in the end. The shelters say that’s it’s not that difficult to adopt out a pet with a physical disability; one that has only one eye or three legs, for example. There are even paraplegic devices with wheels that will allow a dog to have good mobility even if he is missing both hind legs or has a hip problem.
Pets with chronic medical conditions like the FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) in cats require daily medication and special care. This can make adoption more difficult, but not insurmountable with the right amount of education. Sometimes the outcomes with these pets can be very promising and with the right amount of care, they can live long and happy lives.
Adopting a disabled pet may require a little extra sacrifice, but the reward can be great knowing that you saved this disabled cat or dog and gave them a life. One of my neighbors has adopted two disabled dogs; one of them has difficulty hearing and the other one is totally blind, but they adapt pretty well. She told me that one time she looked out in the backyard and the sighted dog was barking at something beyond the electric fence. The other dog joined in the barking, but he was facing the wrong way. She loves them both.
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