May 06 2015

Defying the odds: Inspiring specially abled pets

Defying the odds: Inspiring specially abled pets

By Sharon Seltzer
May 3 is National Specially Abled Pets Day. It’s a day that celebrates the amazing lives of pets with disabilities. In recognition of special-needs pets, here are stories of animals who have defied their physical limitations to inspire others.

Lucy hiked a mountain
Lucy is the only paralyzed dog who has successfully climbed Mt. Washington in a wheelchair. The summit of the mountain is the tallest peak in the Northeastern United States. Lucy was a street dog in Puerto Rico when she was hit by a car as a puppy. The accident left her rear legs paralyzed. That’s when Courtney Dunning saw her.

“I first fell in love with her face when I was looking at animal rescue websites,” said Dunning. “I didn’t know she was paralyzed right away. Then, when I read that she used a wheelchair, I knew she was the dog for me.”

When Lucy arrived at Dunning’s home in New Hampshire, Dunning started taking the dog on daily walks to get her acclimated to the surroundings. She soon realized that Lucy loved the long walks and never got tired. One day she decided to take Lucy on a hike up a very small mountain to see how the dog liked it. The trip took 45 minutes.

“Lucy made it up without breaking a sweat,” said Dunning. “Then a friend suggested that Lucy might be able to train for something bigger to help promote handicapped pets.  I thought it was a great idea, so we started training.”

The hike up Mt. Washington began at 5:30 a.m. on August 18, 2010. It included Dunning, Lucy, a friend, and Dunning’s other dog, Topper. Five hours later the group reached the summit of the mountain at 6,288 feet. Today, at age 7, Lucy still loves to hike.

Crepes is a video star
Alana Grelyak hosts a funny and often sweet blog, Cat In The Fridge, that depicts the daily life of Crepes, her special-needs cat. Crepes is also one of the stars in the YouTube video, “Catalogue.”

Greylak fostered Crepes and her siblings for a rescue group when they were kittens. Crepes arrived with a bad eye infection, a chronic respiratory disease, and a missing front paw, which was likely the result of a birth defect. When the time came for the kittens to find permanent homes, Greylak knew she couldn’t part with Crepes and officially adopted her.

Living with a cat with a missing limb and special needs inspired Greylak to blog about it.

“I want people to know that disabilities come in many forms and that any animal afflicted with any disability deserves a loving home,” said Greylak.

The message was welcomed by pet owners and soon Crepes was a celebrity. Greylak took the idea to another level and produced the first of a series of YouTube movies called CATastrophes. Crepes had a starring role in the first video, “Catalogue,” and continues to be an inspiration for the series.

Oscar Madison NYC is saving lives
Running around town in his dog wheelchair, Oscar Madison NYC is a well-known public figure. The charming little guy with a big smile is in constant motion and in constant demand as a “spokesdog” for handicapped pets. Oscar Madison also inspires others by participating in a groundbreaking clinical trial to get paraplegic dogs and humans walking again.  He is one of 20 paralyzed dogs involved in a study at Iowa State University.

Abandoned and dragging himself on the streets of New York City, Oscar was taken in by an animal rescue group. While he was at a local veterinary office getting vaccinations, Christian Ceres saw him scooting along the floor and was immediately smitten.

“From that moment on I wanted Oscar,” said Ceres. “Before he came to live with me, I did a crash course for special-needs dogs. It never mattered that he couldn’t walk I just wanted Oscar in my life.”

Now every 3 months, Oscar and Ceres drive 2 days from New York to Ames, Iowa, so he can participate in the clinical trial. They spend the week visiting local sites when Oscar isn’t needed at the hospital and then make another 2-day trip back home. The study combines aggressive physical therapies with a trial medication in hope that it will break down scar tissue in the spine and allow the brain to once again communicate the signals to walk.

“We have great hope for this treatment for the future of pets and people,” said Ceres.
Sharon Seltzer is the founder of Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog, a website about dogs and other specially abled pets who defy their physical limitations to lead inspiring lives.

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