Adopting a Special Needs Pet

Posted on 06/26/2013

Bobbie Mayer is the author of “Corgis on Wheels: Understanding and Caring for the Special Needs of Corgis with Degenerative Myelopathy or Disk Disease.”   She has owned four wheelchair corgis (three adopted) and two corgis with seizure disorders, and one-eyed Jack.  Her book is available from CorgiAid

The next time you are in the market for a new dog, don’t overlook those with special needs.  You just might find yourself with a wonderful new best friend who needs you as much as you need him.

Candy on the Beach ©Bobbie Mayer


The amount of “needs” that a special needs or handicapped dog has will vary.  My Jack, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi that I adopted at the age of 1, came with a missing eye.  That turned out to be of absolutely no concern.  Jack has managed normally without the eye for more than six years.   His real disability is a hidden one that came after his adoption – epilepsy.  He takes twice daily medication and I have Valium to give in case of seizures.

Jack and Oliver ©Bobbie Mayer


My other two corgis, Cardigan Oliver and Pembroke Candy, have more visible special needs.  Both have had spinal cord injuries and use wheelchair carts.   Candy has been in his cart for nine years.  At thirteen, he has definitely slowed down, but no more than most senior dogs.  Oliver, at eight, is the most rambunctious of my three corgis and regularly outraces Jack on walks.  Both Oliver and Candy need to have urine expressed (quite simple to learn) and wear “belly bands” with incontinence pads in the house.  Other than that, they are regular dogs.

Jack and Oliver ©Bobbie Mayer


All kinds of special needs dogs come up for adoption.  Blind dogs are usually easy to cope with and often have no real special needs.  They adapt well to blindness.  Deaf dogs, likewise, can do very well without a lot of special accommodations.  Sometimes they need hand signals.  When my Lab Pippin went deaf, I flashed the kitchen light to tell her it was time to eat, and stomped my foot when I wanted to get her attention (she could feel the vibrations.)  Teaching hand signals is a regular part of obedience training and is not particularly difficult.

Rosie in her cart ©Deena O’Daniel


Amputees may have no special needs at all.  When my friend Ed’s Golden, Kirby, lost a front leg, he even resumed his duties as a guide dog.  Usually only double amputees need carts and even some of those manage without.

Dog Wheelchair – Boxer can Walk and Play Again! (Photo credit: handicappedpets1)


So why adopt a special needs or senior dog?  People sometimes say to me, “You’re a saint to adopt these dogs.”  (I’m not.) They should know that the dogs give me far more than I ever give them.  Like any other dogs, they are my friends and companions.  Taking ten minutes out of my day to address their special needs is a small price to pay for love and devotion.   I love them as much as any other dogs with whom I’ve had the privilege to share my life.

Thanks to Bobbie Mayer for this article.

Please visit my web site at Pet Portraits by Deena and see the many portraits I have painted.  10% of proceeds goes to support CorgiAid.

Portrait of Llyr, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi with Degenerative Myelopathy ©Deena O’Daniel


This article is originally posted and shared by the The Pet Blog.