Active Lives of Disabled Dogs

By Kim Boatman

Active Lives of Disabled Dogs

Frankie scampers through life, tail wagging and wheels rolling, says owner Barbara Techel. That’s why Frankie, a perky dachshund left partially paralyzed after a fall, has been named the mascot for National Disabled Pets Day.

National Disabled Pets Day, May 3, is an effort to promote recognition of disabled dogs like Frankie. Organizers hope to draw attention to the disabled, special-needs and geriatric pets awaiting adoption. The day is also intended to encourage animal lovers to volunteer time or donate money to organizations that assist disabled dogs and other disabled animals.

“Watching Frankie persevere, I knew we had an amazing opportunity to educate others that animals with disabilities can and do live quality lives if we give them a chance,” says Techel, who has written two books about Frankie “the walk ’n’ roll dog.” Frankie even works as a therapy dog, visiting the residents in a seniors’ facility. While Frankie’s back legs don’t work, he runs and plays like any other dog, happy to be alive.

Celebrating Disabled Dogs

Frankie is far from alone, says Laura Bradshaw, executive director of Healing Hearts Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, where disabled dogs and other special-needs animals are given a permanent home or placed for adoption, when possible. “Not everybody knows that these disabled dogs can have fun, full, happy lives,” says Bradshaw. “We’re trying to get that perception changed.”

Owners of disabled dogs are often eager to share their pals’ tales. Here are just a few:

  • Gidget the cocker spaniel Gidget’s missing front right leg didn’t stop Joanne Kaufmann and her husband from bringing the puppy home two years ago. Someone had tossed Gidget down a flight of stairs, injuring the pup’s leg so badly that it had to be amputated. “We still haven’t told her she only has three legs, and I’m not sure that she has figured it out yet,” says Kaufmann. “We do make accommodations to make her life easier. Her food bowls are raised, and she has a wheelchair she uses for walks.”

    Gidget keeps up at the local dog park by playing smart. She will anticipate other dogs’ moves and “cut them off at the pass,” explains Kaufmann. The irrepressible Cocker Spaniel even digs for clams on beach vacations, despite having just one front leg.
  • Maurice the Maltese When Yvonne Kleine’s dog, Maurice, was 12 years old, a degenerative neurological disorder and a failed surgery left the dog without the use of a rear leg. Maurice also lost his vision yet thrived to the ripe old age of 18, says Kleine. Maurice used a wheelchair for disabled dogs. “He would actually race around to the point where we called him Hot Wheels,” says Kleine. “His blindness was not a handicap as far as we could tell. We kept the furniture in the same places, and he navigated perfectly. I truly believe that having the freedom and mobility that the wheelchair afforded him contributed to his happiness and long life, in spite of his handicap.”
  • Garcia the English sheepdog It wasn’t a traumatic injury, but rather aging that slowed Maryglenn McCombs’ beloved Garcia. The 10-year-old, 125-pound English sheepdog suffers from such severe arthritis that he could barely move several months ago, says McCombs. Garcia’s veterinarian recommended underwater therapy. Garcia’s walks on the underwater treadmill at a canine rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tenn., have changed his quality of life, says McCombs. “His progress has been nothing short of incredible. Garcia is now able to take daily walks that sometimes last up to an hour,” she says.

Help for Disabled Dogs and Their Owners
Dog owners can be overwhelmed when confronted with a disabled dog’s needs, says Lisa R. LaVerdiere, executive director of Home for Life, a Minneapolis animal sanctuary that takes in disabled dogs. “A lot of times, people with a disabled animal need some coaching and support,” she says.

If your dog is disabled or you are considering adopting a disabled dog, you’ll find a number of resources online, says LaVerdiere. You can also seek advice from organizations such as Home for Life or Healing Hearts. Companies like Eddie’s Wheels sell carts or wheelchairs for dogs, and you’ll even find diaper covers and special harnesses and slings for dogs that need assistance.

“I would tell owners of disabled dogs that their dogs can live a great life because these dogs don’t think about what they can’t do,” says LaVerdiere. “They think about what they can do.”

Kim Boatman is a journalist based in Northern California. She is also the managing editor of ExceptionalCanine.com. Boatman's work has appeared in The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press and the San Jose Mercury News. She is a lifelong lover of animals, and a frequent contributor to The Dog Daily

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Posted on September 9, 2010

Hunter says: oh what haped

Posted on May 3, 2011

Barbara Techel says: Another wonderful resource for pets diagnosed with Intervertebral Disc Disease which can often leave them paralyzed is www.dodgerlist.com IVDD is not a death sentence and pets can live a quality life if owners know how to care for them. One of my greatest gifts is my disabled dachshund and teaching children about disabilities and overcoming their challenges in a positive way.

Posted on June 16, 2010

lois says: 3 weeks ago our ALLIE was walking and went paralized in a matter of seconds in her hind quarters. 2 weeks at the vet hopistal she is home. She is still ALLIE except for her in ability to move her hind quarters. Putting her down has never been an option. It has changed our lives but with love and hope she will be with us as long a god let her.

Posted on July 28, 2010

kim knoch says: Two years ago, we had to have our 16 year old Yorkie euthanized. He had an incurable genetic disease that was slowly starving him. After doing a bit of homework, I discovered that many people who breed animals do not regard genetic diseases.They continue to breed animals that pass these diseases down from generation to generation. In our Yorkie's honor, we vowed to adopt a disabled dog. We adopted our Max. He was 15 minutes from being euthanized and a rescue group pulled him. What a gift he is!! Max is not your ordinary disabled dog. He is all black, 3 legged, and part chow/shepard mix. We have learned so many wonderful things from our Max. He embraces life!! We are now involved with fostering for a rescue group and prefer to take special needs cases. We currently have a chihuahua that spent 5 years in a puppy mill and a yorkie/cairn mix. The yorkie/cairn has a brain affliction which causes him to circle frequently and often lose his balance. They are both a joy!! I strongly urge anyone to foster a dog. They are wonderful teachers that make you realize what a gift life really is!!!

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