by Robyn Elman, In Home Pet Services, Inc.
We all have read stories about how much pets can help disabled humans – from seeing-eye dogs, to therapy dogs, to the simple act of reducing our blood pressure by petting a cat or dog. What happens when the tables are turned and the pets are the ones who become disabled? Every year since 2006 we celebrate National Specially-Abled Pets Day on May 3rd to show case the amazing ways our pets and animals adapt that may have become challenged due to disease, birth flaws or injuries and develop greater senses and abilities. I like to think we can celebrate them everyday!
Being a professional pet sitter since 2003, I have seen, worked with and helped clients with pets that are Specially-Abled over the years. It is inspiring and touching to see the lengths people will go to give back to their pets. Take the story of an adult male German Shepherd owned by a 110lb. woman in Bayside, NY. When his bone cancer became more aggressive and started spreading, there was no choice but to amputate one of his hind legs. A specially made harness was needed to help to lift up and support his rear while walking. The client dedicated herself to helping her best companion to learn to walk again. The dog was depressed in the beginning and didn’t want to walk, but she stuck by him. She actually began to work out to gain more strength in her upper body, and worked with her dog every day. We would come midday while she was at work to continue the routine of motivation and lifting him up to get his first few steps started. Through her hard work, compassion, and dedication, after only a couple of months he started to enjoy walking again. He was no longer depressed, loved to sit outside on the porch and even played ball.
I have also seen how pet lovers will not hesitate to bring an already disabled dog into their lives – especially ones who are blind or deaf. My staff and I have had the pleasure of learning how to care for these pets, and we are happy to go the extra mile to assist them in their care and help their owners too. With a deaf dog or cat, it’s still our habit to talk to or call out to the non-hearing dogs, learning to tap on the floor so they know there is someone there, (they can feel the vibrations), and using a lot of visual cues. Each dog has their own unique visual cues – just like human sign language.
For blind dogs, besides using a lot of audio signals, we let the dogs use their nose to approach and smell us before we use touch. It is amazing to see their ability to adapt to their environment. Once they get used to the layout of a room and house, they can navigate it without any hesitation.
Animals have a spirit and determination that never ceases to amaze me – and the kindness of people amazes me as well. With all our pets do to try and please us, it’s great to see people giving back to them – they deserve it! After all, pets are considered part of the family these days and sometimes are treated better.