CHRONICLE HERALD: Adopt a Pet with Special Needs

Posted on: Thursday, September 14th, 2017

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All pets deserve love and attention. Pets with special needs require extra love and care and include animals that are blind, deaf, have missing limbs, dietary/medical needs, chronic illness, allergies or behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.

Special needs pets are not defined by their limitations. Although they require some dedicated care or training, they are no different in most respects from any other pet.

Their challenges make them no less loving or lovable and they can adapt to their circumstances better than you think. A three-legged pet will still run and play, while a deaf or blind pet will depend on other senses to navigate his home and interact with people.

Sadly, these wonderful animals are frequently overlooked by potential adopters seeking a ‘perfect’ pet and often wait four times longer than average to be adopted.

That’s a long time to be without a family and loving home, all due to factors beyond the pet’s control. Take Marley — a beautiful six-year-old lab who went blind prior to arriving at the NS SPCA. An ophthalmologist said it was best for Marley to have his eyes removed to prevent a lifetime of discomfort. Fully recovered from his operation, Marley was waiting for a loving home.

What do special pets like Marley need? Special guardians — people with big hearts willing to step up to give these animals a loving home and a second chance at the happiness they deserve.

Jake Lake is one of those people. Lake wasn’t looking to adopt a pet when he visited the SPCA shelter; he already had four-legged family members. Lake was there as a volunteer dog walker.

Then he saw Marley’s picture on the wall and it was game over. “I remember the big smile he was wearing and just had to meet him”, says Lake. “I was leaving town for work, but realized what a great guy Marley was and promised him if he didn’t get adopted, he would be coming home with me. I wanted to make sure he had a family to call his own.” Lake kept his promise.

Lake ‘Marley proofed’ the house to ensure his safety before bringing him home. Lake reports that Marley has adapted nicely. “After two weeks, he knew his way around quite well.

He has no issue finding his water bowl, hitting the deck for a tan, or going up and down stairs to follow his dad. Lake’s other pets have been patient with Marley since day one. “He has a challenge keeping up with his canine brothers when they chase each other around the house at playtime, but his disability rarely holds him back.” Lake does have to keep close watch on Marley during walks since “he has only one speed — wide open.” Seeing Marley doing his ‘excitement dance’ when Lake comes home from work makes him smile. “Watching TV together, and knowing how happy he is, makes me feel great.”

Understanding the commitment involved in adopting a special needs pet is crucial to a happy healthy relationship. There are important things to consider before adopting a pet with special needs.

-Think about any long-term dietary requirements, special medications or treatments your pet will need. Pets with behavioural issues may need special training; those with mobility challenges may need therapy or surgery. Ensure you can fit these costs into your family’s budget.

-Your pet may need medications/injections at specific times of day. Ensure you’re available to do this.

-Talk with your family about the challenges that come with adopting a special needs pet and ensure everyone’s onboard.

-Your pet may need more frequent vet visits. Pets with an injury or physical disability may need assistance with standing or walking. Some may need you to physically accompany them outside for bathroom breaks, as opposed to simply being let out.

The NS SPCA makes every effort to place special needs pets with their perfect human match. Before deciding to adopt, speak to shelter staff since they’re familiar with the animal and consult with your vet to get a good understanding of the pet’s ongoing requirements.

Whatever the pet’s special needs, the SPCA will be there before and after adopting to support you by providing information and advice.

People who have adopted special needs pets agree their lives have been enriched by the sweetness and determination of their pets; by the inspiration these animals provide for everyone around them.

Lake sums it up perfectly. “Adopting any pet is rewarding, but changing the life of a special needs pet is amazing. Every animal deserves a loving home and a chance to show their full potential. Marley has so much love to give. It’s gratifying to think that I helped this wonderful guy know the feeling of having a family that loves him back. I couldn’t imagine life without him now”.

Judy Layne lives in Hackett’s Cove with her husband and their two adopted pets. A lifelong animal lover, Judy is a volunteer with the NS SPCA.