Friday, October 12, 2012

Hops in the Right Direction: Not Just for Tripods

Wow, I just realized it's really been a while since I've posted anything for this series.  These posts are never my most popular, and they almost never get comments, but I do believe they are the most important ones.  Not that it's difficult to top "How Pinterest Pisses Me Off" and "Look at This Absurd Thing That Happened to Me."

In this series, I try to advocate for dogs with altered mobility, but outside this blog, I advocate for most any underdog.  (Ba-dum-chick.)  Lots of dogs fall under the classification of being "less-adoptable." 

The term "special needs," as applied to dogs, is a very large umbrella term.  It includes those like Prada, who have altered mobility, as well as dogs that are blind or deaf, have social or behavioural challenges to overcome, have chronic health issues, are heartworm positive, or have dietary restrictions.  This means that because a dog with food allergies needs to be on a lamb and rice diet (which most decent dog food manufacturers carry), it's labeled "special needs" and therefore less adoptable.  Same goes for a dog that is skittish around men in hats.  Or a dog that is blind in one eye.  Most people interested in adopting will skip right over any dog whose profile shows the special needs icon.

"Special needs" isn't an "is" or "is not" thing; rather it's a spectrum.  Plenty of dogs with the label will lead normal, healthy lives that require no significant extra care.  And plenty of them have serious issues that may take a lot of time or money to deal with, which doens't mean they aren't deserving of a loving home.
Elderly dogs are also less-adoptable.  My first dog, Hans, came into my life when he was nine or so.  For a dachshund, which can live well into their teens, that's not really old.  But dogs in the shelter system are often dubbed "elderly" as early as age five for larger breeds and seven for smaller breeds.  Many of these dogs have years and years of life left, if they can avoid euthanization.  And those that are truly elderly are often calmer and lower-maintenance, energy-wise, than their younger counter-parts, which may in fact make them a better fit for some people.

Also on the "less-adoptable" list are the bully breeds.  If you know anything about breed specific legislation, you know the term "pit bull" is frequently applied to many more dog breeds than just the American Pit Bull Terrier:  Staffordshire Terriers, bull dogs, and even boxers have been inacurately labelled.  And pit bulls (of whatever breed) are the most-euthanized dogs in shelters.

Cesar Milan can give much more articulate reasons why this is such a tragedy than I can.  But I do know that I have met my fair share of dogs I've actually been afraid of--and they ranged from big dogs to little, all sorts of breeds.  What they all did have in common was owners who wouldn't take responibility for their dog's behavior.  On the other hand, my good friends who have adopted three adult American Pit Bull mixes have the sweetest girls you've ever met.  It's not luck that those three dogs are well-adjusted and happy.  (Although they are lucky dogs.)

Look, the point of advocating for these dogs is not to make people feel guilty about the kind of dog they have or want--it's about educating, and hopefully making someone consider--often for the first time--whether they might be willing to take on a dog that needs some accomodation, and what level of accomodation they are able or willing to make.

And, ooh, hey, look what my awesome cousin found:

Seriously, how cool is that?  I wish I had known about it sooner.


  1. That IS cool! We walk ours at a local park and often our Lab mix gets very excited at seeing other dogs. He's not aggressive but he tends to overwhelm smaller dogs and even some his size or larger with his enthusiasm. We're often not sure how the other dog owner feels about Roscoe approaching to say "hi" and this would be very helpful.

    I think I've mentioned before that both our remaining two dogs are elderly; they're 13 now! OMG! All our dogs have been rescues and we'll probably continue that way when Peaches and Roscoe are gone.

    1. Prada gets overstimulated in some situations, especially where dogs or people are crowding her. Hopefully this starts to become more commonplace--it could prevent a lot of unpleasant situations.

  2. Dog owners are always telling me that their dogs won't bite when I deliver pizza. I've been delivering pizza for three years and I've only been attacked by one dog. It was a yippy little thing that must have been on its third pot of coffee and tried to climb my leg because it was so excited to see me. (Drew blood, too!)
    It's rare that I run into a dog that's even a little dangerous, but these yellow ribbons would be a great way to give a heads up for the ones that could be problem.

    1. 1. Love the moniker.
      2. EXACTLY. It's so simple, too--I really hope it starts catching on on a larger scale.

  3. I sometimes "browse" shelter sites when I'm dreaming about the day that I can get a dog again, and I am so glad that you explained the special needs. I won't pass them over any more.

    You're right, the yellow thing is cool!

    1. I used to browse, too--you might remember I used to have a dog "sponsor" posts each week. But I fell in love with too many of them, so I had to stop. :)

      (Just be prepared--some of the stories are really sad...)

  4. I appreciate your post and attention to special needs pets as a whole. We have a big blind mutt who chose us in a pet store on an adoption Saturday six years ago. We had no intention of getting another dog at the time, but this big lug walked right up to us in a line of people and decided he liked us (or the smell of chicken tikka massala on our hands).

    Ming was born blind and it appears his eyes were possibly further damaged by untreated disease or injury in his early weeks. It's all he's ever known and while it does create some minor challenges, in some ways it also makes things a little easier for us. Without sight, he has no desire to wander away from home or pursue creatures that would get him in trouble (squirrels, raccoons, snakes) but at the same time has the sense to recognize them and stay away from them. Because he can't race around the house, he's easy going and mellow which suits us just fine.

    Still, he has that "sight" that so many animals have when lacking in one sense, the sight that utilizes his other senses in concert to judge everything around him and he surprises us all the time with what he can detect and how easily he can get around. He knows his neighborhood better than most sighted dogs because he must get through it using his paws, his nose, his balance, and his hearing.

    Along with all this comes a ton of personality and a great deal of love.

    I truly believe he chose us. We walked away that day without him but couldn't get him out of our minds and soon had him in our home. I am forever grateful to his foster for saving him so he could be a part of our lives.

    I tell people if you cannot bring yourself to commit to adopting a special needs animal, try fostering. You may come to realize what we have - these are really just special animals that can bring so much joy to your life.

    1. I feel the same way. I live in an apartment, so fostering isn't an option for me, but I do try to keep my hand in through blogging and participating in fundraising events.

      Ming sounds like a pretty special--and very lucky--dude.

  5. I had no idea about the Yellow ribbon, this is awesome! I am going home and putting a yellow ribbon on my dogs leash right away. He is a sweetie but does not like people reaching to touch his head he likes to be petted under his chin, we adopting him and I think he must have had a bad experience with his previous owner hitting him or being rough that way.

    1. Hope it helps! A trainer friend actually told me once that a lot of dogs don't prefer being touched on the top of their heads--some just tolerate it more willingly.