Recently I was asked to write an article for the Washington Animal Control Association newsletter about caring for companion animals that are disabled. Even though you read a blog several weeks ago about living with a blind dog I thought this article might be of interest to you because of my overall perception regarding disabilities.
When I see my friend Rocky running flat-out in the exercise yard of the animal shelter I don’t even think about the fact that he only has three legs. He doesn’t think about it either. He’s just a dog that enjoys running. For almost a year Rocky has smiled, wagged his tail constantly, walked, run, played and showed off his joyful spirit every day at the shelter. But no one has adopted him. People are passing up the opportunity to live with a perfectly wonderful dog just because he has what some would perceive as a disability. Perhaps Rocky is waiting for you; he’s at the WAIF Animal Shelter in Coupeville and would love to meet you.
The word “disabled” often conjures up all kinds of thoughts and feelings which aren’t necessary or productive, especially when it comes to our perception of animals that are functioning in a way that is different than other companion animals. Instead of thinking about them as disabled just because they can’t see, hear, are missing limbs, or have some other perceived disability, why not think about your animal friend as being differently-abled?
If you’re caring for a differently-abled animal here are a few thoughts that might be helpful to you:
- Understand that your animal companion is very willing and able to learn how to function without using eyes or ears if those are the issues that concern you. With your patience and guidance blind and deaf dogs do very well.
- If mobility is the problem, know that there are many websites that offer support, assistance and information about carts or other related products. Just type in “Pets with disabilities” in your search engine and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much support is out there.
- Differently-abled animals:
– make every effort to do what they can to their maximum potential,
– have more patience than humans will ever have in the same situation,
– don’t worry about their needs being taken care of; they know we’ll do that,
– need our acceptance to honor them as they are, not as we wish they would be,
– don’t feel sorry for themselves,
– don’t worry about being loved; they know we love them,
– enjoy life just like other animals,
– have much to teach us about living joyfully.
Our differently-abled companion animals view life with a simplicity and purity of emotion that we would be wise to emulate when it comes to how we see them. If you were blind, deaf or missing an arm or leg, your animal friend wouldn’t see those physical “defects” as problems in your relationship. Your animal companion would love and support you in every way he or she could regardless of your “differently-abledness.” Why not do the same for them?