The Rewards of Adopting a Special-Needs Pet

Everyday Amazing

Not all adopted special-needs pets are going to save a life or contribute to society, but they can become loving companions. That was Julie Mancini’s experience after adopting Sindbad, an African Grey parrot with a bad leg and chronic health problems.

“It took about six months for me to be able to handle her,” Mancini says. “She didn't really trust people too much when I got her, but once we understood each other, she was a wonderful companion for about 10 years. When she started losing weight and her vet determined she had a heart problem, it was time to let her go, which was one of the hardest days of my life.”

As a veterinarian with more than 30 years of experience in practice, I can tell you that pets with special needs such as loss of vision or hearing, a missing limb, paralysis or a health problem that requires ongoing care such as diabetes or thyroid disease can adapt surprisingly quickly to new homes and families. Lis Carey fostered a dog named Corky who had been blind from birth.

“He quickly developed good mental maps of any place he was in regularly,” she says, “and people were generally surprised when I said he was blind. He’s in a very loving forever home now, where they value his sweet personality and responsiveness.”

If you’re thinking of adopting a special-needs animal, consider how he’ll fit into your family. Some pets may need a patient, stable, quiet household, while others do just fine with active kids or toddlers. You may need to move carefully around a blind pet since he doesn’t know which way you’re going to go, and it’s a good idea to leave furniture in place once he knows his way around. Several organizations work to place special-needs pets and can help you decide if a particular animal will suit your lifestyle.

“You have to be a little bit creative and you have to be patient and modify things sometimes to make it easier for them, but they’re totally worth all the extra effort,” Golub says. “I wish people wouldn’t shy away from adopting a special-needs pet, because besides love and companionship, they provide daily inspiration!”

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