“Special needs pets need special people!” This is a phrase that we hear frequently from rescues encouraging people to adopt special needs pets. But why is that? Is it because of the sacrifice we are willing to give and the extra time that we are willing to take to care for these pets? Is it because they require people with loads of patience, in a world that seems to have less of it?
The answer is a resounding NO! (echo, echo….) Caring for a special needs pet may be a bit challenging at first. There’s a strict schedule, medication routine, frequent vet visits. They are not like ‘normal’ pets. It is a lot of work, but no one really told me what I would get in return for caring for special needs pet. No one told me about what made these animals so special, or what I was about to experience.
My husband and I have the honor of caring for special needs pets. Our senior dog Reggie, a Lhasa Apso came into my life when we moved in together. He had a heart condition and was partially blind. I had to get accustomed to a new schedule with is daily heart medications, and we couldn’t miss a dose. We had to be aware of where he was at all times when moving around. We had to make sure that sharp edges were protected so he would not hurt himself. When we moved into our new house, we had to make sure to maintain a consistency with objects from our prior home and teach him how to move around the new one. I could not change my routine while he got used to his new environment.
Zach is another one of our special needs pets. He was born in our house as part of litter by a mama cat we were fostering. He suffers from a condition called Angular Degeneration, which causes different bones to grow at different rates throughout his life. This results in impaired mobility and the inability to retract the claws from his front paws. He has overgrown shoulder blades and does not have a kneecap in one of his legs so he cannot bend it. We are also not able to microchip him due to his issues with his shoulder blades. He is not able to jump like normal cats, and since he cannot bend his left leg, he is very prone to getting it caught in a certain spaces as he moves around our home. We had to identify all areas and spaces where he may get caught and make them inaccessible to him. We also have to make sure that he never goes outside unattended because he can’t defend himself. We need to give him daily massages to help relax the muscles in his front paws and to help his claws retract. We also have to do weekly nail trims for the claws do not retract.
Tank is another one of our special needs pets. He is an English bulldog who suffers from allergies and requires daily serum injections. Tank came to us with one of the worst cases of mange and skin infections that we have ever had in our rescue. We fostered him, and after Reggie passed, we foster failed and made him a permanent member of our home. Little did we know at the time that his ailments were a direct result of his allergies. Tank is allergic to approximately 90% of the allergens included in a typical canine allergy panel. He will require serum injections for the rest of his life. He also suffers from severe dry eye, which requires life-long daily eye medications.
Our special needs pets are a lot of work! So why put in all of this effort? Why spend all of the time, energy, and money on these pets rather than a perfectly healthy one? Because caring for a special needs pet is one of the most rewarding experiences! These are the pets that get rejected most often and the ones that need us the most. You may think that I am biased because of my personal experience with my own special needs pets, being an animal advocate, and my involvement in animal rescue. But the reality is, we have not met more dedicated, loyal, and loving pets than our special needs dogs and cats.
Reggie was the best boy. He got along with everyone he met. He did not like his ears to be touched, but he loved cuddling with us. Reggie was pretty set in his ways, but always showed gratitude. Everyone who met Reggie loved Reggie. He was everyone’s favorite and still is, even almost 2 years after his passing.
There is no cat more loving than Zach. All of our cats are very affectionate and love spending time with us, but Zach is beyond special with his affection. He makes sure to spend time with everyone in our home, both people and pets. He grooms all of us, and he’s such a cuddler! He also shows his love by trying to knead on me – even though his movements are limited. He is the welcoming committee for all of out new foster kittens. He loves to keep them company and groom them. He is just a wonderful kitty.
Tank is a mama’s boy. He does not leave my side. He follows me everywhere. He listens well. He is obedient and well behaved. What surprises me the most about him is how awesome he is about taking his injections. I just call him and tell him it’s time for his medication. He patiently lets me give him his injection then excitedly waits for his reward cookie. His best friend is Zach, who would spend time with Tank while he was recuperating from his skin issues. Tank gets along with all dogs that come through my home and helps with our puppy fosters by keeping them entertained and always playing with them. I have had to learn to deal with excessive drooling, but that’s just a part of who he is, and we love him.
These are just a few examples of how exceptional special needs pets are. My husband and I also have full-time jobs, and I also run an animal rescue. We find the time to provide our special needs pets with the love and care they require and deserve. It is so worth it!
If you are looking for a pet with whom you can build a strong bond, I encourage you to consider fostering or adopting a special needs pet. They come in all shapes and sizes, with different needs, some require more than others. But in the end, their wonderful personalities and temperament will make it difficult for you to not fall in love with them; and the love you will feel from them in return is beyond measure. It truly takes a special person to care for a special needs pet. It takes a special person who is willing to accept and cherish an unlimited amount of love and gratitude that comes from caring for them. So the question is: Are you that special person?
To show your support for special needs pets, purchase a tee, tank, hat or tote from our new Special Needs, Special Deeds collection. All proceeds go towards the care of special needs pets.