Adopting a special-needs pet is worth the reward

Annabelle was adopted from a shelter in California by a couple who decided to give the poodle a home despite her disabilities. “Annabelle’s joy at the smallest things taught us time and again how precious life is,” wrote the couple.



The photograph of the poodle’s bright eyes staring at the camera lens first caught my attention.

The deep brown gaze depicted love, trust and thankfulness, but I felt sadness staring at the little dog in a tiny wheelchair.

One of my readers, Tami, sent me an email describing this dog’s short life as well as the photograph. Tami asked me to share the story to offer people a better understanding of the incredible joy she and her husband, Greg, experienced as they cared for this special-needs animal.

Annabelle was found on the side of the road and taken to a shelter in California. She was severely dehydrated, unable to hold up her head and was eventually diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis. This debilitating disease is an infection caused by a parasite that can attack the nervous system.

When she was found Annabelle was missing a right rib and ovary, which led shelter staff to think she possibly had been dumped by a breeder who could gain no profit from this disabled dog. The shelter nursed Annabelle back to health, however, she was unable to stand, walk or even lay upright.

Tami first spotted Annabelle in her four-wheel cart on a social media posting. It was a small miracle the shelter took her in and cared for her in the first place given her bedraggled condition.

After two months, the fluffy dog’s photo was posted again but this time the post said, “urgent.” Tami discussed the possibility of adopting Annabelle with Greg, who initially had reservations, but they soon decided to give the little girl a home.

There were other dogs in the household, and as they drove out to California to pick up the little girl, Tami and Greg had some concerns. However, their worries were quelled when they arrived home. The family of dogs happily welcomed the newcomer and would often lay close to her, reassuring her place in the pack.

Not long after Annabelle’s arrival, one of the other dogs in the family, Sammy, was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease. Tami found herself torn between taking care of two incapacitated pets but felt her attention should be focused on Sammy.

So Greg took over her care and the two became best friends.

The family dogs loved to go for walks and the constraints of the wheelchair prohibited Annabelle from participating in frolicking with her four-legged friends. Greg designed and built a special sling to support Annabelle’s tiny frame. The apparatus provided her the freedom to experience walking even though her compromised body was unable to support her.

Eventually, Annabelle began to experience small seizures and her breathing became increasingly labored. Her mobility began to deteriorate causing Tami and Greg to limit her exercise.

On a short visit to Greg’s parents one night, they found Annabelle unconscious. They rushed her to a emergency veterinary clinic, but sadly the little girl had passed on. She was only 5 years old.

Tami and Greg asked me to share this story with the hope that others would consider adopting a special-needs pet. They have since acquired another dog that needs their loving touch.

“We did not regret a moment of our lives with her and we’re thankful for how she changed us and made us better people — more patient, kind and loving,” Tami and Greg wrote in an email. “Annabelle’s joy at the smallest things taught us time and again how precious life is and how we shouldn’t ever take the little things for granted. She taught us that you are as happy as you think you are.”

Caring for an animal with special needs is a huge commitment that will require complete devotion. However, as these caretakers expressed, the rewards will forever impact your life.

Thank you, Tami and Greg, for sharing your story and may it help others to realize the importance of caring for a disabled creature in need of a loving friend.

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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