By Lauren Theuerkauf
Being a pet parent to differently-abled animals isn’t easy. Aside from the typical annual physical at our veterinarian, many of our fur babies have specialists that they see on a routine basis. Two of our dogs take daily medications that they will be on for the rest of their lives. Plus, there is special equipment that we’ve purchased in an attempt to help them with their medical needs: A Muffin’s Halo, a Calmz vest, and Assisi Loop, to name a few.
There have been many sleepless nights as we try helplessly to comfort our dog who suffers from dementia. We’ve done massive early morning cleanups after one of our dogs has an IBS episode. And there have been numerous emergency trips to Veterinary Specialty Services for various harrowing experiences.
Yet, I wouldn’t change a thing. Caring for these differently-abled animals has brought my life new meaning. I’d like to share the five biggest reasons why I treasure my special furry family.
1 They provide unconditional love. My dogs and cats don’t care what I look like. They have seen me at my worst and at my best. No matter what, I feel their love for me every second of the day. I almost always have one of my furry children in my lap. They all love to snuggle close to me whether I’m working on my laptop or watching a movie. They woof and meow and dance excitedly when I come home from work. From the very first tail wag in the morning, to the final kiss goodnight, I am showered with love.
2 They are a source of inspiration. Adopting our first differently-abled animal, Penny, was an eye-opening experience. She was born with a uniquely formed front paw and a severe overbite. My husband and I thought that she would need lots of extra care. When she came to our home for the meet and greet, she promptly leapt onto our sofa leaving us stunned. Penny later went on to scale our three-foot pet gate…four times!
Several years later, we adopted a mini double dapple Dachshund that was born without eyes and is completely deaf. We watched helplessly as Hope crashed into the walls as she tired to navigate her surroundings. In just a week’s time, she learned the entire layout of our house. Over the years she has: taught herself to bark at the back door when she wants to go outside; pulled the broiler door to our oven open when she smelled a pizza cooking; and got out of our fence so that she could go next door and lick our neighbor’s grill. Nothing keeps Penny and Hope from living their best lives. They inspire me to do the same.
3 My furry family makes me laugh. When you live with five dogs and three cats, you are bound to see some very entertaining sights. But my fur babies bring a hilarity to my life that is truly unparalleled. Adriel was born with a birth defect where her tongue is longer than her head. This means that her tongue always sticks out. When she gets tired, her tongue hangs out even further. Just looking at her brings a smile to my face and a warmth to my heart. Penny, our tripawd pooch, gets very excited about meal time. She does her own special tripawd dance and waves her uniquely formed paw (a.k.a. “the stump”) in anticipation. Miracle, our Calico cat, loves to perform acrobatics routines. She recently taught herself to jump onto my shoulders whenever I bend down to put laundry into the washing machine. Miracle also loves to roll over for belly rubs, much like her canine siblings. Her favorite thing to do? Take her annual ride in our rotating Christmas tree. There is never a dull moment in my house, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
4 They are compassionate towards me and others. Studies have shown that animals are very perceptive to human emotions. This is definitely true with my dogs, Penny and Adriel. Penny absolutely hates to see me cry. When my tears start to flow, she will immediately hop onto my lap and begin licking my face until I stop. But her compassion doesn’t end there. Penny and I volunteer at the Animal Protective Association of Missouri where we co-teach the humane education class to birthday parties, Boy/Girl Scout groups, etc. Another volunteer brought in her pet piglet and wanted to show the group how a piglet squeals when turned upside down. The moment the pig’s shrill cry pierced the air, Penny began tugging at her leash and almost jumped out of my lap in an attempt to go to the piglet’s aid. Penny also helped raise a two-week old kitten that we found in the middle of Main Street six years ago and a one-day old kitten that we rescued from its stray mother who was rejecting her after birth.
Adriel is a certified therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International. Now in her eighth year of service, Adriel has visited children in kids’ clubs, Autism centers, nursing home and Hospice patients. During one particular visit to a kids’ club, she kept sticking close to one little boy. Adriel followed him around until he sat down and decided to pet her. The boy looked at me and said, “She’s very funny.” The kids’ club staff gasped. It turns out, the little boy had Autism, and this was the first time they had ever heard him speak.
5 My family is unique and united. All of my pets are rescues. Many of them have had to endure horrific treatment at the hands of their previous owners. Some had never even seen grass before being rescued and still others were kept in wire cages for most of their young lives. It has taken years for several of our furry babies to trust us completely. Yet, whenever we adopted another pet, they were welcomed with open paws. Our dogs would tentatively greet a new pup with a quick sniff before play bowing and offering to share their toys. The cats would stare down from their tower with watchful eyes before leaping below to inspect a new kitty with twitching whiskers. This soon turned into the cats grooming each other while purring up a storm. While each animal has a unique story, they share the same ending: a second chance at life with a family who couldn’t adore them more.
Theo is my oldest dog. He will turn 16 on February 15th. He is special to me because he is my BFF (Best Furry Friend). My parents and I adopted Theo in 2001 when I was still in high school. He has remained by my side and been my loyal protector ever since.
Adriel is special to me because she is a very affectionate and laid back. She is always ready to give kisses in exchange for endless belly rubs. Adriel can also sense when I need comforting and is more than happy to provide touch therapy.
Domino is special to me because he is the class clown of the pack. He loves to get “spicy” in which he will bark and growl at me until I stop what I’m doing and give him kisses. Domino is a closet lap dog but defends me from all strangers and squirrels.
Penny is special to me because she is a total lovebug. She loves everything and everybody. Penny has never met a stranger. Whether she is volunteering at the APA of Missouri or licking my tears away, her compassion and outgoing spirit is limitless.
Hope is special to me because she is very inspirational. Being born without eyes and completely deaf, she doesn’t let anything stop her from living her best life. She is fearless and always follows her nose to new adventures.
Miracle is special to me because she is a survivor. My husband and I discovered her in the middle of Main Street when she was just two weeks old. We had no clue how to care for a kitten, but she not only survived; she thrived. Six years later, Miracle still gives kisses like a dog and rolls over for belly rubs.
Olaf is special to me because he acts as my feline protector. Whenever I sit down, he has to be laying on my lap. Olaf guards me from his fellow cat siblings and, occasionally, my husband.
Sven is special to me because he is the ultimate snuggle kitty. He loves to rub his face against mine and purr non-stop. Sven is very fearless and loves to meet new people and animals.