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Speaking up for the animal with special needs

Updated on January 19, 2013

Speaking from experience (and I am sure that many of us have had these moments), it is definitely not easy to be a person or animal with special needs. Other than feeling that there is no place for you, you have to deal with added problems if you have special needs - dietary, physical or, in some cases, emotional. Without choice, people or animals with special needs have to face criticism and, ultimately, rejection. There is no need for me (but I am doing it anyway) to mention that the special needs animal sometimes experiences discomfort both physically and emotionally, heightened especially if there is no care or support given.

So on this rather serious note I introduce the animal with special needs. These are very special creatures that need everyone’s care and attention because of a lack of a place in the world owing to their disabilities or debilitating circumstances of one kind or another. Definitely, looking after one is far from being the easiest thing, considering they are not aesthetically pleasing. Our positive vibes are simply not aroused by the diseased, deformed or handicapped. Coming across creatures such as these can confuse as well because of the pity we may feel on one hand and the burden of its needs on the other.

Before going on any further, one may wonder which animals constitute this group. To myself, at least, these creatures who cannot seem to get our attention fall into 5 broad categories - the runts of litters, the diseased, the handicapped, the deformed, and the grand daddy of them all - the senior pet. These creatures all have added burdens in their lives and require a little more care and attention.


What animals form this group?

The Runts Of Litters

In animal litters, it is not surprising to find one who is much smaller than his brothers and sisters - the runt. (Being rather small myself, I am a little more partial to these fellows. )These little ones find it a little more difficult to nurse than their litter mates and are often ignored by the group. Pushed aside, they are victims of the maxim “survival of the fittest,” - while some grow to be handsome, healthy animals, others, unfortunately perish for want of food and comfort.

When I was a little younger, I took in a pint sized Bichon Frise. Being Chinese, our family named her Mei Mei (or sister.) Being undersized, it was cast aside by the rest of the group and the breeder had problems selling it. It was kept in “mill” conditions - cramped and a little dirty. She had health problems too, what with being sickly and a little malnourished. There is a little more on her, which I shall share later.

The diseased

This group of animals form a pained and more than unfortunate lot. Other than the discomfort they garner from their condition, many are painfully - in more sense than one - rejected because few people are able to accept the responsibilities that come with taking care of a sick pet.

I paid a visit to Singapore’s Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and immediately felt rather sorry upon entering its doors. The animals that were quickly snapped up form adoption were of course, as it turned out, those who were healthy and had no attached problems. A Standard Sized Poodle I came across had hair and few chunks of skin falling by the side. A lab lying still was malnourished and sickly. Cleaning the pens proved to be a task too, with the surrounding odor and everything else that might be a shame to name.

Handicapped Animals

Many of these are unfortunately born in conditions that are a little cramped, such as those in puppy mills or really small cages where there is no room for the animal to move, causing the loss of a few limbs. Others are, unfortunately, the victims of accidents. Unsurprisingly, they do not fit in as well as their more nimble counterparts, requiring special facilities like wheelchairs to enable their movement.

A Pomeranian I once owned had its legs broken by an ignorant neighbor who threw it in a fit of pique down some stairs. The poor dog had the resulting injuries - it had to be assisted by a K9 cart for some time. Special visits to the veterinarian, of course, took their toll monetarily as well, but the animal lived, thankfully, to a ripe old age.

Animals born with deformities

We know of many of us who are born with Down’s Syndrome, Hydrocephalus and other handicaps which result in unfortunate deformity. Of course, the situation is repeated in the animal world, with some animals being, for want of a better word, uglier than others because of an unwanted condition.

Mei Mei the Bichon had a few deformed teeth in the front of her mouth that did not do wonders for her appearance ( not the best candidate for Cover Dog magazine because her front teeth jutted out). Added to that, the rejection she must have felt at the time made her a little grouchier than expected; till this day (she’s a healthy 18) she still has some esteem issues though my family loves her dearly. Yes, animals can relate.

Senior Pets

The senior pet is another category of animals that need a little more of our attention. These animals, like ourselves, have a wealth of health problems (please pardon the ironic pun) that come with their age - the usual cataract, cancer slowness and other disorders.

My Schnauzer Misty, being 10, is a little slower, and as a result we slow jog with her and my puppy, Cloudy. She has a few eating difficulties as well and needs to be fed at times. As is to be expected, she will require a little more time and attention as she grows older - but having been a companion for an entire decade and more, she is definitely well worth it.


Why should we care for animals with more needs than others?

What goes around comes around, eventually.

It will, for the most part, seem rather thankless taking care of these special creatures. There will be pay back in karma, though, and people surrounding you gravitate to you because you have that kind heart.

Animals with special needs are just as loyal as other animals.

Animals do sense the care that you give them and this applies to those with needs as well. It can be even more so because these animals will be more than doubly grateful for the concern you show, although they will be a little difficult at times.

You are forced to develop new skills and resilience.

Not many people in the world will be able to say that they know how to maintain wheelchairs and so forth - and the handicapped animal’s wheelchair will require you to do this on a regular basis.

You will also become somewhat of a nutritionist, having to understand its dietary needs. Planning a diet for a special needs patient is not a skill that many can attest to.

Caring for a special needs animal fulfills our need to fix things.

Human beings all have an innate desire to put something right. Caring for an animal with special needs very much fulfills that desire. The pleasure one derives from seeing the animal being properly nursed and glowing with radiant health is a tremendous feeling.

Making the sacrifice adds structure and routine to your life.

You are forced to maintain proper schedules when caring for an animal which needs more help; when to cook for it, when to bring it for examinations by the vet and when it needs its medication. If you are not the best of planners, like myself, this can give you a kick start in being organized.

A dog runs like the wind in his wheelchair!

What would stop you from caring for an animal with special needs?

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Caring for the special needs animal - what do you need?

It is a rhetorical fact that these animals will definitely need some of our attention, albeit frustratingly more than the norm. They are at a disadvantage primarily because not many have the patience or resources to take them in. Indeed, they do require meticulous attention.

In caring for the special needs animal you must....

have lots of patience.

It is always better to admit that your time is limited than to take in an animal with special needs, only to find that the time and resources for taking care of it is only too little; it is only human to become a little impatient in the more trying circumstances they present. Assess if you have that patience before the innate concern all of us have drives us to do something rash.

disregard your aesthetic sense.

Very naturally, these animals will not look as pleasing to the eye. One has to be willing to ignore the fact that these animals, by virtue of what they are, will not be catwalk models any time soon. It is perfectly fine to admit that one is human and cannot accept the looks of such an animal; it is better to do so than to take it in out of pity only to find it an aesthetic burden later and abandon it.

give it lots of exercise.

We can name this Animal Physiotherapy. Exercise will enable the animal to perfect its motor skills and give it more confidence, just as it would a person who is disabled.

As the series of videos attached to this article show, dogs, when properly exercised, know how to use their wheelchairs with practiced finesse. They enjoy the activity as well.

protect it from other animals when necessary.

Such animals will have less ability to defend themselves than other animals, and will lose in ensuing fights or tussles. If you own the runt of a litter, litter mates which are stronger will always be first in line to suckle and you may have to move the animals around so that they get the chance to nurse.

have a special calendar for its diet.

The diet for a special needs animal will require a bit of planning and preparation. It is good to ensure that one has the time to get these plans routinized and prioritized.

Owning an animal with special needs allows you to display your true love for animals; one cannot really say they are animal lovers unless they can accept all its defects and disabilities. Things do come in full circle and taking care of one can be extremely rewarding. If one has the time to spare and is considering adopting an animal, do consider one that needs more of your time. They need homes like others do.

Recovery for dog in a wheelchair.


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