Archive for February, 2011
Found as strays or turned in by owners, rescued by law enforcement or animal control officers, shelters are full to the brim with dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, older dogs and puppies of every imaginable breed or mix – they are there. According to most sources of statistics regarding shelter adoptions, 50 to 60% of all dogs that land in a shelter are euthanized. And as you might expect, smaller dogs and younger dogs or puppies are preferred and more likely to be adopted. But what about disabled, ill or special needs dogs?
Dogs that are blind or deaf, three-legged or in wheelchairs (yes, wheelchairs for dogs!), or diagnosed with chronic illness can be more than most families want to take on. Left in shelters or dog pounds, they can also become even more ill due to confinement or depression. The pound can be a tough place even for robust healthy dogs, despite the best care overburdened shelter staff and volunteers can offer.
That’s where special needs rescue organizations come in. There are a number of these rescue groups around the United States, working with volunteers coast to coast. Some groups specialize in one particular disability, such as Blind Dog Rescue, which obviously works with rescuing and rehoming blind dogs. Other groups are more general and will work with any number of illnesses or disabilities. One group specializes in hospice care for elderly and terminally ill dogs.
How Does it Work?
Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that a sick dog is a sad story. Unfortunately one chapter in this tale is that of finances and veterinary bills. Diagnostics, treatments, medications, x-rays… all these services add up quickly and for many owners may even contribute to the dog being left at the shelter. More and more owner turn-ins cite inability to afford the pet as the reason for giving it up.
Many of the special needs rescue group link volunteer sponsors with foster or forever homes. People in a financial position to donate sponsor a dog or dogs, and are identified on the rescue organization’s website as the sponsor of the specific dog. People often sponsor in memory of a beloved pet who may have gone to the Rainbow Bridge or perhaps had the same ailment. These sponsors help defray the costs of removing animals from the shelter and placing them in volunteer homes.
Is This the Right Pet for Me?
For some pet owners, the notion of providing a comfortable and safe “final refuge” for an elderly or ill dog sounds perfect. For others it sounds perfectly awful! If your interest is piqued, how would you know whether or not you are the right match for such a dog?
• You need to be around. Do you work from home? Ok. Are you retired? Even better. Often these dogs don’t do well alone for long periods of time, and may need frequent bathroom breaks.
• No young kids in the house, and no other young and rambunctious pets in the home. A quieter, mellower household would be a better match.
• Messes, bodily fluids, and “clinical” care, such as learning how to provide certain treatments or administer medications don’t bother you. Some clean ups should be expected from time to time, even under the best of circumstances.
• Is everyone in your home (spouse, older kids, housemates) on board with the idea? It is a big commitment and responsibility, and may be a very emotional experience. It’s only fair to all involved that everyone in the household is aware and engaged.
• Infrastructure: is your home friendly to a frail or weak dog? Do you have lots of stairs or lots of clutter? Polished wood or tile floors? Do a walk through with your special needs dog in mind. If you are wincing and cringing by the time you’re finished, you have your answer!
All that said, providing love and care to an animal with special needs can be one of the most powerfully rewarding experiences a dog owner can have.