Why would anyone purposefully adopt a disabled pet? Given the number of pets looking for new homes at any given time, it would be easy enough to quickly skim by any with known health or behavioral issues. But is there really a perfect animal? An active person who runs daily, enjoys long hikes and is always on the go would be disappointed with a couch potato or fearful dog. Likewise, someone who is a homebody and lives a quiet lifestyle would be overwhelmed with a high energy dog. Like dating, the connection between a person and the animal they choose is a mix of chemistry and magic!
Thank goodness there are big hearted people out there that are willing to overlook physical flaws or temperament issues that just need time and the right training to resolve. Often that is why animals end up at animal shelters in the first place. Someone didn’t/couldn’t do the training needed when the dog was young and now, he’s a handful. Or like Hunter, the 86 lbs. Lab/shepherd we currently have for adoption; his family lost their home which had a big yard and moved into a cramped apartment. A change in living situation that didn’t suit the dog!
Captain is a special pup; he was born with a slightly deformed foot. A birth defect that may not ever really be a problem depending on how he grows and how much he uses it. That is unknown as he is just 7-weeks-old at this point. I think his cuteness will triumph over his disability but if an adult dog came in with that issue it could be more difficult to find him a home. Sad to think that, more than his personality, this minor imperfection might decide if he gets a home!
Winter is another dog currently at the shelter. Winter is deaf, a common disability often linked to animals with blue eyes. It takes a patient person, willing to work with a trainer to teach the dog hand signals, to be successful with a deaf dog. Some people use a vibrating collar, too, so they can get the dog’s attention from a distance and have some control from afar. Other than his lack of hearing, Winter is a typical terrier teenager! People who have lived with a deaf dog know that other than taking a few extra safety precautions, life is no different and their pets are wonderful, affectionate, playful animals. And the bonus is they aren’t afraid of fireworks!
Blindness is another common disability we see in pets. If your dog lives long enough, chances are her eyesight will start to diminish from age related reasons. Occasionally younger animals go blind because of disease or injury. Animals are amazingly resilient though and you often wouldn’t be able to guess that a dog was blind if you just met her on her home territory. Their other senses kick in and they can maneuver just fine using their nose and ears! We also frequently get in animals with skin conditions. This is not a disability so much as a chronic health issue, which can be off-putting especially to an adopter with financial constraints.
Now that I’ve lived with a 3-legged dog (removed after I had the dog for several years), I realize that this “disability” is only in my mind. Even though Brandy lost his leg later in life he adapted instantly and is the same dog he always was. I didn’t select a dog with a disability, but I ended up with dog that has one and you know what? It doesn’t matter in the least! It has certainly changed my outlook on this topic.
Sometimes animals with disabilities are even sweeter, as if to make up for their physical imperfection. It takes a big heart to overlook these issues and make a decision based on what is truly important – the connection you make with that particular dog or cat. If you allow your heart to make that decision maybe Hunter, Winter and Captain will have a chance at a home!
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.