Imperfect Pets, Perfect FamiliesPublished November 18, 2010
Most pet owners dream about their perfect pet, even before they bring him or her home. Whether it's playing fetch with a puppy, cuddling with a kitten or sharing your life with a small animal like a rabbit or guinea pig, we look forward to those special moments with our new pet. But just as with humans, pets can experience physical challenges that require special attention. Whether it's through a congenital problem or through an accident, pets can be disabled or face a variety of physical challenges. And those who have disabled pets say that while it's not what they imagined, those relationships are incredibly rewarding. "She's taught me to be more compassionate to people as well as to animals," says Jude Stringfellow, whose dog, Faith, was born without front legs. "Because of her, I look at people with disabilities differently. I talk to their eyes, not to their disability, and I see them as whole." Regardless of the disability, loving pet owners say they have found the perfect family with their imperfect pets. Following are five stories of such pets and the people who love them: Cindy Baldhoff and Nitro When Cindy Baldhoff rescued an abused 7-year-old Boston Terrier, he didn't appear to be a good fit with her active, athletic lifestyle. Severe abuse and neglect had left Nitro with one crippled hind leg, a heart murmur and other physical and emotional challenges. But Cindy was quickly won over by his sweet disposition, and it wasn't long until she adopted him. "He just has so much heart, it's incredible," Cindy says. "He might not be able to do as much as other dogs, but he always gives it everything he's got. And he's always happy. Nitro is proof that you can overcome just about anything with love." Jackie & Stewart James and Bowz and Fiver Jackie and Stewart James adopted their first disabled rabbit, Bowz, three years ago. The 7-week-old English Spot mix's left rear leg had been broken so badly that it had to be removed. "We felt that no one else would adopt her, but to be honest, Bowz doesn't even know she has a leg missing," Stewart says. "She's so used to it that it doesn't slow her down." Just a few months ago, they added Fiver, a rabbit with an atrophied front leg, to the brood. The affectionate 7-month-old rabbit has already won them over. "He's so friendly and very graceful," Jackie says. "He's a very special rabbit." Paige Clark and Luigi, Chuck, Earl and DeeDee Paige Clark is known for rescuing animals, and it's not uncommon for her to adopt the ones with disabilities. Today, her busy house includes Luigi, a 6-month-old pug who was born missing one front leg; Chuck, a 2-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel with a brain disorder that causes him to have seizures; Earl, a 5-year-old English bulldog with a Grade 4 heart murmur and Dee Dee, an 11-year-old Shih Tzu suffering from dementia. "You just make the commitment to accept them for who they are and love them for however long they have to live," says Paige, who also is mother to two teenage boys. Her husband, Bob, was paralyzed in a car accident in 2000, which Paige says had contributed to her open mind about animals with disabilities. "I think we love them more, because we really don't know how much time we have with them," she says. "That's true for all of us, but we're just more aware of it with these dogs. We want to make every day special." Jude Stringfellow and Faith Faith, a Chinese chow mix, was born with severe deformities that left her without front legs. But when Jude Stringfellow's son, Reuben, brought the three-week-old puppy home, Jude knew she had to give the puppy a chance: "Even if she didn't survive, we wanted her to be happy for as long as she lived." But she did survive, and then with Jude's help, Faith learned to walk on her hind legs. After catching the attention of their local TV news station in Oklahoma City, Faith's story went global. Today, 8-year-old Faith travels with Jude, sharing their unique story with others. "She is proof that you don't have to be perfect on the outside," Jude says. "I've literally been offered $1 million for her, but turned it down. You don't sell someone you love." Read more stories -- from top pet bloggers -- devoted to the touching, joyful, crazy, and amazing roles pets play in our families today, from our Pet 'Net hub page.
- Filed Under: News & Blogs