The Rewards and Challenges of Adopting A Special Needs Animal

One of the toughest decisions we've made as a family was adopting a special needs animal. Our Daisy was a ten year old Boxer who'd spent her life neglected by a drug addicted owner. The police and animal control had been called on him multiple times during Daisy's years with him. It took the third visit for animal control to finally have enough evidence of abuse to remover her from his filthy home.

He couldn't even tell the police her name because he didn't remember it.

Due to her age and appearance, she'd gone un-adobted at our local shelter for months. Eventually, the staff crowned her the office mascot, assuming she'd never find her forever family. Fate stepped in by whispering to us that it was high time for us to have a pet. We went into it specifically seeking an older dog. Sure, puppies are adorable, with a likelihood of sharing many, many years of love and championship with us. But we weren't looking for cute. We were looking for an animal no one else wanted. That's who we wanted to give a home to. The forgotten. The neglected. The overlooked.

We Didn't Expect it to Be Easy

Adopting an elderly and/or abused animal comes with a host of challenges. Namely, trust, and possibly health, issues. For an elderly dog who'd simply been abandoned, that animal had spent his entire life with his family. Now, in his sunset, he has to learn an entirely new set of people and rules. He's confused. Scared. And most likely, achy given his advanced age. Imagine plucking your grandfather from his life and dropping him into someone else's world. That's pretty dang scary!

Add previous abuse to the mix, and you have a whole other set of challenged to overcome. But, the time invested in such an animal is well worth the effort.

With Daisy, it came rather easy for us. She blended seamlessly into the fold of our family. From the second she walked through our door, she was 'home'. She gave us her unconditional love and trust from the moment we met. And for the ten months she was with us, we made sure to give her the life she deserved. 

We took her to the beach. For long walks around the neighborhood. We even took her on a road trip to Florida, where she met so people who instantly fell in love with her.

Sadly, Daisy crossed the Rainbow Bridge soon after we returned home. A brain tumor took our girl on June 2015.

It's now 2018, and we have yet to recover from the loss.

She wasn't the prettiest Boxer, but to us, she was perfect.

This past December, we finally felt ready to bring another dog into our home. We also wanted to honor Daisy. The best way to do that was to open our home - and our hearts - to another special needs dog. 

Hello, Mr. Jack Skellington

We returned to our local shelter, who remember us, and how much we adored Daisy. Given that we only had her for a ten months, they suggested a younger dog. We even spent some time with a lively Husky. But, there I saw, in one of the pens, a tiny and shivering, dog. 

the Mini Pincher/Chihuahua mix was absolutely terrified.

While Frankie, Jesse, and Tyler viewed the Husky, I hung back with the little cutie who was slowly belly-crawling his way over to me. I stuck my finger in a small opening in the pen. He rubbed his nose over my fingertip. 

I was done.

This was our new dog.

Unfortunately, we had to wait five days to bring him home. He'd only just been rescued, and by law, the owner had seven days to claim him. 

I called, literally, every day to check on him.

And I already named him Jack. Jack Skellington, to be exact.

After they found Jack on the street, they tracked down his owner via his chip. The owner was gone, however. Evicted. But, they spoke to the neighbor who said the men had abused Jack for years, and once the trash critter learned he was being evicted, he picked Jack up, and quite literally, tossed him out of the house.

Jack had been roaming the streets for three weeks--during a New Jersey winter. 

We adopted Jack on December 16th, and since then, we've been slowly winning his trust. He's very much my dog. He follows me everywhere, and lets me know when I've gone too long without petting him. He's very lovey, but even after all these months, he's still skittish. Our vet told us he suffers from extreme anxiety, and will likely remain that way for the rest of his life. That's okay. We'll just continue to do our best to show him his days of being hit and kicked and screamed at are nothing but a distant nightmare. Now, his days are spent being smothered with hugs and kisses and cuddles.

He also didn't come to us 100% healthy. Our boy has a grade 4 heart murmur. He also has stomach issues that could stem from either just a sensitive belly, or it could be a product of his anxiety. Either way, he help him through his bouts of bad belly, which lasts for days.

Given that he's five or six years old, his time with us is limited. But, for the years we'll have with him, we'll pack tons of living in them. He gets scared around noise, and has a disdain of other dogs, so we make sure to give him the quiet sort adventures he enjoys. 

Mr. Jack Skellington

I'm curious to know if you've also adopted a special needs animal, and what challenges you've faced helping them overcome their past.