Adopting A Special Needs Dog
A while back I was speaking with Dogster member Ron about his pup Takoda, a special needs dog. I asked if he would like to do an article on what it's like to adopt a special needs or older dog. What you bring to their lives, and the unbelievable joy they bring to yours.
I recently received Ron's response and it seems like the perfect post as American Humane's Adopt-A-Dog Month comes to an end.
I guess you could say that research started when my wife and I adopted Takoda. Like Logan, he was a stud dog in a Puppy Mill, used and abused for the first three years of his life and then ready to be tossed away, along with four other Dobermans, when the people who owned the Mill decided they were no longer of use and were ready to toss them to a Kill Shelter. Thank God a Rescue Group heard about that and promptly rescued them all. If that hadn't happened, we never would have known how much love a Rescued and Adopted dog, be it a Senior or Special Needs, has to give.
I wanted to really be able to tell you exactly what was needed to adopt that Special Needs, or Senior, dog so I joined several different groups to see what others had to say. I just wanted to read the posts and see what was being said from the heart, not from the mind. What I wanted was their feelings and comments that were spontaneous, not thought out. Those reasons and feelings that came from deep within.
I've been visiting, reading and taking notes for quite a while now and just knew a pattern would start forming rapidly. Well, after all this time that hasn't happened. From what I read in all those posts, there really wasn't anything specific about the people who adopted a Special Needs or Senior dog, they varied from young to old, from those with the ability to give the best of care to those who would have to scrounge a little to take care of their pet. There just didn't seem to be anything specific that was needed.
True, it would be nice to have some extra time to share with a Special Needs, or Senior, dog but that wouldn't be a necessary requirement. It really isn't the time you share but the quality of the time spent together. Showing and letting that dog know how much they are wanted and loved and also being able to accept the love and devotion they give in return.
While it would be nice to have the ability to shower that Special Needs, or Senior dog, with toys, fancy beds and all the treats they would like, again that isn't a requirement. Showering them with love, devotion and your company is all they want. Just having you as part of their life is more then enough. It's the feelings, the love they feel, from and for you that matters.
I was starting to get a feeling for what I wanted to write and then I read your Tribute to Logan. That made me realize that there is something you need to adopt that Senior, or Special Needs, dog, something that money just can't buy. Something everyone can have, if they just open their hearts and try. That something is a big heart.
True, a Senior dog is really an ideal candidate for human seniors, there is so much difference between them and a pup. They usually are house-broken and trained ( maybe not thoroughly but somewhat ) , more settled in their ways ( not hyper-active ), more willing to lay back and relax and a lot more things that suit the senior lifestyle. But, the same things that make it ideal for a senior to adopt also applies to a younger person who doesn't have the necessary time to devote to training a younger dog.
True, a Special Needs dog will require more care and attention but if you can give them that, then you really need nothing special. Again, they can be ideally suited for a Senior since, like me, they have more time to devote to the dog. In Takoda's case, being blind when we adopted him, he has bonded so tight to me ( my wife still works and is gone most days ) it is easy to see that I have become his eyes. He wants to be with me at all times and I guess that could present a problem for some people but he does get on just fine when he's alone. Here I believe the main thing is not babying the dog but realizing they can usually get along just fine, on their own, if you just give them a chance.
I believe most anyone would get along just fine with a Senior or Special Needs dog, as long as they don't let those facts overwhelm them. Just because they are a little old, or have a health problem, doesn't mean they can't give you love and devotion like any other dog. In fact, that is one thing I did find from the groups I joined. Most comments concerned just how much love and devotion the owner receives from their dogs. Be it a Senior or Special Needs, every owner told stories of the amount of love and devotion their dog gives. That's why I say the only thing you really need, the one thing that will make adopting that Special Needs or Senior dog, is a Big Heart.
Why? You'll need it to store all that love and devotion you'll receive and all of the memories you'll have and share. Your heart will grow larger with every one you adopt. Everyone you share a part of your life with and they share a part of theirs with you. So many memories, so many wonderful memories, that when the time comes and they make the Journey to the Bridge like all our pets do, the love, devotion and memories they leave behind will easily ease the pain of losing them. Your heart will grow larger with each new pet and the tears will always flow when they leave but those tears will make the love grow stronger and the willingness to accept the pain of losing them easier to accept.
No matter how many tears fall, they will never erase the love and devotion, the memories those Senior and Special Needs dogs leave in your heart. Yes, you need a very big heart to adopt a dog like that but just the willingness to adopt that first one will get your heart growing. Share the love and you too will have a Big Heart, a Very Big Heart.
Thank you Ron for sharing your story, and hopefully inspiring others to go out and adopt a special needs or senior dog.