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From Special Needs to Special Love

With "Putting on the Dog" just behind us, it reminded me of the joys adopting a special-needs dog can bring to a family. (originally printed in PAWS)


Sometimes you adopt a dog, and sometimes the dog adopts you. When we lost our beloved 15 year old long haired miniature dachshund to the ravages of old age, we had not intended to get another dog.

The trials and tribulations of providing care to our old girl had been emotionally taxing indeed, and had gone on for the better part of a year.  After one week of mourning and crying over the empty places left in our hearts, we knew that we needed to fill it. We began searching for a young pup that would have some of the traits and characteristics of our beloved Cleo, but who would not really look like her because that would have been too hard to bear.

We searched the internet dog rescue sites and found, if you could believe it, a chocolate lab-dachshund mix pup that captured our hearts, and a mini-pin, but we felt we should check out our local shelters also. One of them was PAWS.

When I saw Trixie’s picture something in me clicked. She was an older dog, a Shetland sheepdog mix with a beautiful expressive face and gorgeous eyes. When we entered PAWS for the 1st time, there on the wall were the pictures of all the available pets, including Trixie. As Blake talked with us about what we wanted in a dog, she suggested individual dogs that might fit our desires. I asked about Trixie, whose image and story had captured my heart on the internet, and again in the waiting room. Blake noted that she might not be what we were looking for as she was now about 11 years old and had been living at the shelter for nearly two years. She had gone blind and was partially deaf, but we thought we should meet her anyway.

Blake noted when she went to get her that Trixie might take time to warm up. We sat on the floor so as to be less imposing and waited for her to arrive. As she walked into the room with what looked like shiny silver dollar eyes that could not see us, and began rubbing her head against us and wagging her tail, I knew she belonged with our family. We took her home that very day!

Yes, there are challenges to adopting a special needs dog and, yes, it takes some extra effort on the part of the family, but the rewards abound. We watched this cherished pet move from timidity in a new home, having to navigate stairs (using lavender scent markers), and learning to trust, to enjoying hours of outdoor walks with members of our family, becoming a lap dog, and even learning to become part of a new pack.

Yes, we did also adopt the little lab/dachshund pup and the mini-pin; and yes, we all went to doggie training school to learn how to make our home the best living environment it can be for all 6 of us, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

A special needs pet brings such special rewards to a family, as does each adopted pet. Each step of progress is a source of joy and pride as you watch a once throw-away creature return to the embrace of a family that cherishes its special qualities.

One almost feels that these pets know they got a second chance, or in some cases a 1st chance at a life with quality and meaning and love. This extraordinary bond grows stronger every day and reinforces our awareness that adopting Trixie was the right thing to do…for her and for us.

We only got to have her for six months before she died, but we felt they were likely the best six months of her life!



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