The Rewards and Challenges of Special Needs Pets

We who love pets unconditionally can’t help but spend endless hours on Petfinder searching for that next dog or cat in need of rescue. We look at the pictures, read the stories, pay attention to who can’t be placed with other species, the same species, or children.  We email links to our friends, begging them to make room for just one more. And once in a great while we encounter that special pet who essentially chooses us.

I was recently added to a Facebook group for Great Pyrenees (big, white fluffy dog that weighs about 120 pounds and looks like a polar bear) lovers and started following the story of a Canadian couple who adopted an 8 week-old blind Great Pyrenees.  We all held our breath and exhaled with little, soon-to-be-giant, Annie’s first year with her human parents and Ruby, her new dog sibling. Updates showed Annie learning her way around the house, navigating stairs, and taking walks in the gorgeous British Columbia forests. These posts also showed the formidable challenges faced by people who rescue special needs pets.  If you’d like to read more about Annie’s challenges and triumphs, her dog mom has begun a heartwarming blog entitled Love Is Blind detailing their story.  Click on the link to read and have lots of tissues handy; this is a great story.

Following Annie’s updates got my librarian brain working: what types of resources do we have here at the library to help people with special needs pets. Bruce Fogle, DVM offers the most practical medical advice and some tips and tricks for helping your blind and deaf dogs adapt.  The biggest cache of information we have comes from our collection of pet memoirs – A Dog Named Boo by Lisa J. Edwards, Blind Hope by Kim Meeder, The Dogs Who Found Me by Ken Foster; and to give the kitties some equal time, Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper. The common thread running through these books is the unfailing love and deep and strong bonds formed between animals and their humans. And more often than not, it’s the humans who insist they were the rescued ones. These stories bring to mind Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” — the rescuer of the special needs pet chooses the road less traveled, and this has “made all the difference.”

Until next time, I leave you with some video of Annie learning how to use her nose to get up the stairs.


Tanya Walsh

Tanya is a Public Services Specialist, a certified dog trainer, and a volunteer at the Helping Hands Humane Society. Her areas of interest are music and very large dogs.

4 thoughts on “The Rewards and Challenges of Special Needs Pets

  1. Tanya, what a great post. SCARS had a blind dog named Heidi, she just passed away last month. Once she was accustomed to her rescue home environment she could get around surprisingly well on her own and had a decent quality of life. It takes great people to care for special needs animals!

  2. I agree with Matt – this is a great post, Tanya. We often think of “pet” books as focusing on training, but there is so much more to the owner-pet dynamic. Thanks for sharing!

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