Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why Imperfect Pets Are Perfect

By Marie Matheson, HSSV Volunteer

As a kid I dreamed about the most perfect pets: fluffy kittens and energetic, playful puppies. I was lucky enough to have several kittens, puppies and various other pets growing up, all of whom provided me with many hours of entertainment, companionship and love.

But, similar to humans, pets can experience physical challenges that require special attention. These physical challenges may be caused by an accident or a congenital problem, resulting in a long term disability. I currently have a pet with a physical disability and while it is not what I dreamed of as a child, I find my relationship with my “imperfect” dog particularly rewarding. Jessica, Tara and Anthony echo similar feelings. Jessica adopted Nemo, who gets around just fine on three legs. Tara and Anthony adopted Trooper, who has limited use of his back legs and uses a cart to get around. Following are the stories of how their two imperfect pets, adopted through HSSV, found their way into their families.

Before coming to HSSV, Nemo’s leg was caught in a trap. When HSSV heard of Nemo’s situation from a neighboring shelter, they immediately offered the medical treatment necessary to save Nemo’s life. Sadly, the damage was so severe that the only option was amputation. After surgery, Nemo was diagnosed with ringworm so while recovering from surgery, he also had to undergo daily sulfur baths and six weeks of isolation! His recovery was aided by the TLC he received from several of HSSV’s volunteers, who due to the contagious nature of ringworm, had to wear gowns and booties while spending time with him.

Nemo is now living a wonderful life with Jessica. “Nemo is the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever met,” Jessica says. When Jessica worked at HSSV as an Education Specialist she was able to bring Nemo to work with her where he served as an education ambassador in HSSV’s Education Program. “Nemo shows kids that he can get around just fine on three legs,” Jessica explains. “His courage and loving spirit are powerful learning tools. Nemo shows kids it’s OK to be different.”

Trooper is a 10-year-old Chihuahua mix who has limited use of his back legs due to a back injury that occurred five years ago, leaving him temporarily paralyzed. He also had a broken hip, and these two issues together required two different surgeries. Even with these treatments, Trooper had difficulty walking. When he was brought to HSSV after these surgeries, the staff continued to work with Trooper, providing him with acupuncture and water therapy to help build strength. Trooper was originally named Pico, and staff at HSSV affectionately called him Pico, The Wonder Dog. Check out this YouTube video they made of Pico showing his moves.

Tara and Anthony found Trooper’s spirit engaging and adopted him from HSSV. Trooper now has a cart that he uses to get around. This cart was a life changer for Trooper, building his confidence and increasing his mobility. In fact, he loves his cart so much he “protects” it from the family cat! Trooper’s energy and love for life are the perfect combination not only for Tara and Anthony, but also for others. So today, Trooper is a Therapy Dog. Three days a week he spends time working by “charming the seniors with his inspirational story and his ‘can-do’ spirit.” You can see Trooper at work and read more about his progress in Trooper’s blog.

Both Nemo and Trooper show us how special our relationships are with our pets and how much we can learn from their spirit, perseverance and capabilities to accept life’s challenges. Without the help of HSSV, Nemo and Trooper’s lives may have ended prematurely. I’m so thankful that HSSV recognizes how special each and every animal is that comes through their doors.

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