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Special Needs Dogs Help Women See Need for Adoption

October 19, 2016Posted by Helaina Hovitz

In this world of convenience, some of us have grown impatient, and we tend to forget that some things are worth the extra effort.

At least, that’s the way Yvonne Harper, author of the Blind Faith book series and a foster mom and adopted of special needs dogs, sees it.

Back in 2009, there was far less awareness around the animal rescue movement, let alone for the adoption of special-needs dogs. Harper lived with two special needs dogs at the time, Twinkle and Kizmit, a white pekingese whose eyes were sewn shut. Watching them overcome obstacle after obstacle changed her forever, and she wanted to pay that favor forward.

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By self-publishing books filled with stories of these dogs—the majority of them blind, some deaf, and others suffering from health conditions like seizures or deprived of the use of their legs—she began her own type of movement to raise awareness for the adoption of dogs that typically get passed over.

“Both my dogs’ eyes were removed and their eyelids sewn closed; but living in the darkness didn’t stop them from brightening up my dull existence,” she said.

While she describes her efforts as “a small whisper” into the world, she has certainly made an impact. People began writing to her on her website saying that they, too, would consider adopting a special needs dog when they began looking for a pet.

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One family in particular brought their 12-year-old son, Adam, to a shelter to pick out their next pet. Adam quickly gravitated toward a Pomeranian named Sydney who was his same age (in dog years), and the staff at the shelter commented that they had never seen her take that quickly to anyone.

They fell in love, but Adam’s parents were hesitant, explaining that Sydney she would require a lot of special attention.

“No problem,” Adam said. They are still best friends to this day.

Of course, his parents weren’t entirely off base in their initial hesitation.

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In the case of blind dogs, specifically, for example, there are certain things to be mindful of, like making sure that the home environment, which they will memorize physically, stays relatively unchanged.

But as with any “normal” dog, they can be easily trained to identify words and objects by association, helping them to avoid bumps and stumbles, among other potential dangers. But out for a run at the dog park or for a stroll around the block, blind dogs, deaf dogs, and dogs with other conditions appear just as happy as they prance around as any other canine does.

The same goes for dogs who can’t hear.

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In the same way that Harper has been a champion for dogs who can’t see, Christina Lee has been an advocate for the adoption of dogs who are deaf, offering a ton of tips, guides, and resources on her website as well as listing deaf dogs available for adoption all over the Unit ed States at Deaf Dogs Rock. 

Since 2011, she’s helped rescue over 2,000 of them from shelters across America.

“The bond deaf dogs develop with their family members is a very strong bond, and owning a deaf dog makes us better dog parents,” Lee said. “Deaf dogs rock because they hear with their hearts.

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Michele Hayward is another pet lover who realized there was no specific rescue group that could take in pets of people who had passed away or were terminally ill. She started her rescue after their mutual friend Rebecca began losing her fifth battle with cancer at a very young age and needed to find a new home for her pets.

Rebecca was an avid advocate for all kinds of animals, taking in many who were orphaned and saving hundreds and hundreds of abused and neglected others.

“You don’t want your pet going into a shelter when it should be sleeping on a soft bed in a home. You are scared to death fearing the pet will end up as pit bull bait or a lab animal or something even worse,” Hayward said. “Many of these pets are turned away from shelters or rescues.”  

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In September of 2009, Michele named her organization Rebecca’s Rainbow. To date, their volunteers have found new homes for nearly 500 pets, and foster families can be reimbursed for food and gas and vet bills accrued.

Fortunately, there are caring people out there who are prepared to love these dogs, if only even for a few years, and have great respect for the lives they’ve lived.

“As long as opportunities continue to arise to raise awareness for these incredible animals I will grab them with both hands and do my very best to help,” she said.

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For these women, their sole efforts have sent ripples of change into the world and into the homes of so many families who are forever changed by the compassion they are able to show for a dog who just needs a little extra TLC.

“To have blind faith is to do something that goes against logic,” Harper said. “To do something that maybe makes no sense to onlookers, but you know in your soul it’s the absolute right thing to do.”

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