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Benefits of Adopting a Specially-abled Dog

Benefits of Adopting a Specially-abled Dog


Did you know: May 3rd is National Specially-abled Pets Day (formerly Disabled Pets Day)? Now here’s a holiday we can get behind! Specially-abled Pets Day celebrates these amazing and heroic animals, helps to educate the public about caring for disabled pets and finds homes for orphaned, specially-abled pets. Founded in 2006 and internationally embraced, the decision was made to change the original name when founder Colleen Paige felt that it just didn’t fit. “The name held too negative a connotation… because these pets are very able! Pets that become challenged due to disease, birth flaws or injuries, tend to develop greater senses than your average pet. Most of the time it’s as if they never had to readjust to life… and we need to keep up with them!” Celebrated on May 3rd annually, National Specially-abled Pets Day encourages adoption always and hopes that people who would like to bring a new furry family member home will consider a specially-abled pet.


A PetFinder poll found special needs pets are the third-hardest animals to place, behind senior pets and bully breeds. Many of these “less adoptable” pets spend up to two years waiting for a forever home, more than four times the average wait. This is just part of why we always condone adoption over buying here at Dog for Dog, and today we’d like to talk about the advantages and key points of adopting a specially-abled dog. This is, of course, beyond the very obvious point that choosing to adopt a dog with special needs in many cases means saving the life of that dog or at the very least (if they’re coming from rescue), means that you’re taking on an amazing task that few would even consider facing. Special needs can encompass various disabilities, chronic medical conditions and behavioral issues. Some common problems among cats and dogs include missing one or more limbs, hind limb paralysis, deafness and or blindness, diabetes, allergies, urinary tract infections and lack of socialization. Some pets might require diapers, ramps, support slings, regular medication, and dog training and/or pet socialization classes.


One set of limited skills can bring out a whole new set of advantages. Pamela Nakamura wasn’t necessarily looking to adopt a special needs pet when she came across a beautiful yellow Lab named Max two years ago. “I knew from his photo that he was missing an eye,” says Pamela. “I didn’t want him to get passed by and I really wanted to give him a good home.” While Max is a little clumsier than your average dog (he has a tendency to bump into fences and walls) he has surprising mouth-eye coordination that makes him excellent at playing fetch, says Pamela. Learning to walk him was a little awkward in the beginning. However, she quickly learned if she keeps him on her right side that she’s within his eyesight and he feels safe and content. Overall, the past two years with Max has been really positive and Pamela says she wouldn’t hesitate adopting a special needs pet again.


Consider the commitment. Rochelle Michalek, the executive director of Paws Chicago, a no-kill shelter that rescues and adopts out injured and healthy pets in the Windy City, says that “Animals with disabilities are incredibly adaptable and despite their injuries can still be functional and even find a way to play. We put animals in homes where there is a commitment to succeed. People who adopt disabled pets ought to be of the proactive set. The environment at home has got to meet the needs of the pet and owners have to be committed to providing exercise, stimulation and training when necessary. Paw’s philosophy is one of education. We really talk about the cost of medical care so people in tricky financial situations know what they are taking on.” Her rescue also offers foster-to-adopt setups, where potential adopters can take their new bud home for a few weeks to make sure the new situation is one that works for both the pup and their human counterpart.

Stay open minded. In “The Power of Three Legs,” co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society Faith Maloney says that nowadays disabled animals are often the first to be adopted at the shelter. “It wasn’t long ago that any animal coming into a shelter with a defect – be it three legs or one eye – was considered unadoptable and automatically destroyed,” says Maloney. “But just as there are trends for certain breeds of pets, the trend now in adoptions is toward animals that come with publicity attached or with readily apparent war wounds.” This isn’t necessary a good thing – with the rise of so many “animal celebrities,” shelters are often overwhelmed with adoption requests for a few pets at the expense of many others. While this publicity can be a boon for the pet in question, there’s only one available for adoption; many potential adopters will leave empty-handed without considering other animals.

Blindness in a pet doesn’t mean you’ll have to hawkeye them 24/7. Actually, blind cats and dogs are no different than other animals! A blind pet doesn’t know what blindness is or that he or she has it, so they act like a regular dog or cat. “Blind cats can do pretty much everything that a seeing cat can do,” says Blind Cat Rescue, a permanent housing sanctuary in North Carolina. “They can climb trees, climb up on top of cabinets and get into places that you cannot figure out how they did it.” When caring for a blind pet, it’s important to maintain a consistent household. This means keeping food and water bowls, litter boxes and furniture in the same spots; blind pets navigate using their other senses, so moving things can confuse them. Dog trainer Cesar Millan recommends blocking off dangerous areas like stairs or pools with a baby gate, and laying down carpet runners or creating a “sniff path” of air fresheners on your pet’s regular route.

Deaf dogs are still totally trainable. Many animal shelters initially can’t tell if a pet is deaf; they look and act just like a regular pup – because they are. While many deaf dogs are easily started even by the lightest touch, with regular training they can be desensitized. “Deaf dog owners do take special measures to alert the dog to their presence before walking up to, or touching the dog,” says the Deaf Dog Education and Action Fund. A vibrating or “vibe” collar is used to train deaf dogs in a way similar to clicker training. Because dogs rely more on visual cues and body language than spoken words – they don’t understand English, after all – training a deaf dog is no more difficult than with a regular pup. One pet parent even made news for teaching her deaf Great Dane American Sign Language and many trainers teach their hearing dogs ASL commands as well.

Tripawds have an extra zest for life, in case you didn’t already know! While it’s true an animal amputee won’t be winning any races, the majority of dogs and cats get along just fine on three legs. Many report their three-legged pets are particularly spunky. Tripawds, a community for pet parents of three-legged animals, encourages strengthening your dog’s abdominal core muscles to compensate for missing limbs, rather than excessive walks or runs. Many tripawd dogs wear a special harness that allows for easy maneuvering of stairs and cars, while others can provide extra support. The location of the missing limb can make initial recovery difficult for some pets. “The front leg accounts for approximately 70 percent of the dog’s strength and balance,” says Seattle pet hydrotherapist Sheila Wells. “That is why front-leg amputees often have a more difficult time adjusting to their new state. The rear can follow but the front has to lead.” In any case, there’s no need for a long face when you spot a three-legged doggie!

Inspired and obsessed yet? Check out these six heroic special needs animals and check out the official website of NSAPD for a list of blogs all about special needs animals. In the comments below, tell us about your special needs pet or a favorite one you’ve met!

Here’s a video of our friend @underbiteunite on Instagram

“All too often I think Specially-abled Pets are overlooked because people are worried it will cost too much money to care for them or that it’ll just take too much work. That is not the case. Most animals, especially those that are blind in one eye or missing a leg, do just as well as if they had no issues at all. Dogs in wheelchairs can run around chasing balls, playing with other dogs and romping through water. Even totally blind animals can chase toys by sniffing them out. Animals are so resilient. They just need a chance to show us what courageous little heroes they are!” – Colleen Paige

Go Green with your Dog for Earth Day

by DOG for DOG Team 0 Comments

Going Green with your (1)

It may be a tiny holiday in the grand scheme of a packed year of days to celebrate, but April 22nd is Earth Day, something we can all get behind – no matter where we reside on planet earth. The internet will quickly fill with genius and helpful ways to go eco-friendly in your day to day life in a variety of ways and means, but we wanted to focus on one particular part of your life that could likely use a little eco-magic – that’s right, dog lovers. It’s time to reduce your carbon paw-print. We’ve rounded up some simple and tried-and-true methods for greenifying your life as pet parent, and while none of us can expect perfection or overnight change, taking a few small steps in the right direction can have a huge effect in the overall. We hope you’ll consider giving some of these tricks a go!


  1. Reduce or replace your paper towel use. Most of us are guilty of using copious amounts of paper towels in our day to day life, and especially grab them for help cleaning up after our pets. But those rolls of paper, however endlessly useful, are no bueno for the environment. Consider using regular towels or rags instead of paper towels to clean up after your pet. If you just can’t break the paper towel cycle, consider using reusable personal hand towels that are machine-washable.
  2. Ditch the dumpster. Many items that your pet no longer uses or has grown out of might still be able to be put to use at a shelter. Call your local shelter to see if they need any of the items (old beds, blankets, towels, collars, etc.), or organize a swap with friends and neighbors.
  3. Choose poop bags wisely. Instead of using plastic bags to pick up after your dog or clean the litter box, use biodegradable bags. They typically break down in about 1 month as opposed to an estimated 1,500 years for a plastic bag in a landfill. Cat litter is also available in all-natural and biodegradable forms, and you can even consider making your own pet waste compost container.
  4. Ditch the extra paper. If you are still mailing checks to your favorite animal charity, switch to online or telephone donations or automatic direct debiting from a bank account (and go paperless on statements).
  5. Check the labels. Do your existing products use eco-friendly materials and packaging? Check the labels to see what is inside the product and if the bottle or container is recyclable or made of biodegradable materials. Stuck with plastic? Recycle after use. Purchasing eco-friendly pet products is a simple change, but it can really help lower the environmental impact of your pets. Dog owners, for example, can find many different varieties of shampoo on the market that use natural or sustainably-sourced ingredients. For cat owners, kitty litter can be an environmental concern as it often does not biodegrade. Thankfully there are litter products available made from biodegradable or recycled materials. You can also reduce the chemicals in your home by making your own cleaners and deodorizers. Instead of spraying over a pet smell, you might already have everything you need right in your pantry.
  6. No more plastic bottles, evvvvvver! This is one of the most simple and important moves we humans can make. If you use plastic bottles for your pet’s water or for taking water with you when you go out, install a filter on your tap and use a permanent, washable bottle instead of plastic.
  7. Bring reusable bags to your local pet store. We all remember to do it at the grocery store, but those same reusable totes will work well on your next trip to the vet or pet store. When heading out with your pet, grab one to to carry things back home with you.
  8. Make your own food and treats, when possible. Many animals can live on perfectly healthy diets with meals made at home. Consult your veterinarian for advice. Homemade treats are another way to use ingredients you already have while saving a trip to the store and reducing packaging waste. Otherwise, yet another way to decrease the environmental impact of our pets is to choose pet food from companies with a commitment to the planet. At TerraCycle, they have partnered with pet food brands Open Farm and Wellness TruFood to open free recycling programs for pet food bag waste, allowing anyone to send in their pet food bags for recycling. Family pets are able to have their favorite sustainably produced food, while packaging waste is diverted from the landfill.
  9. Think about storage. Use a washable and reusable container to store food and treats instead of a plastic bag.
  10. Ditch the paper plates. If you feed your pet food, treats or scraps by placing a paper plate on the floor, switch to a plate you can wash to reduce the paper waste. Designate or buy a plate that everyone knows is for the pet. Wash it separately by hand before storing it away from regular dishes.
  11. Reduce driving. Do you drive to a dog park just to walk around? Look for closer parks or nature trails, or arrange walks or play dates with friends and neighbors with their pets.
  12. Wanna get really wild? Compost! Pet waste can be a particularly hazardous pollutant – especially to nearby water sources– and dogs alone are responsible for 10 million tons of it every year. But believe it or not, your pet’s waste can be used as an effective ingredient for compost. There are plenty of tutorials online to help start a compost pile with pet waste. Keep in mind that dog waste compost is not recommended for plants and crops meant for human consumption.
  13. Choose your toys wisely. Playtime can also be eco-friendly with the right products. For the cat owners, this list of eco-friendly toys boasts a wide range of fun things to keep your cat occupied. You will find everything from dye-free toys made with organic materials, to toys created with recycled or upcycled materials. To ensure old toys don’t end up in the trash, be sure to donate or upcycle them instead. You can always make your own toys as well! Cats love balls of aluminum foil, hair ties, and paper towel rolls, while dogs will always be happy with an old ball from the garage.
  14. Spay and neuter your pets. The exact number of strays in the United States may never be pinpointed, but the ASPCA estimates that there are over 70 million stray cats alone. Spaying or neutering your pets is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent further overpopulation. When strays – especially cats – multiply, they can severely disrupt the surrounding ecosystem. Feral cats are even listed on the Invasive Species Specialist Group’s list of worst invasive species on earth, and it is believed that they are responsible for over one billion animal deaths each year.
  15. Lastly – and most importantly – adopt don’t shop. Please, please, adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue instead of buying. This has a cascading effect: Puppy mills will have reduced demand, fewer animals will be bred for profit, and much-needed available space will open up in shelters — where literally millions of pets are being euthanized each year in the U.S. simply because there isn’t enough room for them all.


Want even more tips? Check out a few other stories here, here, and here.


So, earth loving dog parents, what would you add to our list? And what measures have you already been taking in your day to day pet life to keep things kosher with the planet? We’d love to hear more of your tips and findings in the comments below!



5 Tax Breaks Your Dog is Giving You

by DOG for DOG Team 0 Comments

5 tax breaks your dog is giving you this yearDog lovers, it’s April – and you know what that means. Yes, showers for those May flowers but also… taxes. Now just breathe. We know taxes are a big, scary, ugly word for many of us, but there is at least one bright spot this year if you fostered a dog in the last year or were otherwise involved in the dog rescue world. Eligible deductions! Funny to think about, but fostering a dog actually does come with benefits for your tax purposes, and being in-the-know about what exactly you can do to get those write offs is a bonus this time of year. While you can’t claim your pups as dependents (no matter how much money and stress they may cause), there are other ways to get them in on your paperwork.

In 2009, a Michigan senator introduced a bill that would give pet owners up to $3,500 a year in tax refunds for “qualified pet care” costs. It was an ambitious, heavily inclusive piece of lawmaking that would’ve saved pet owners a chunk of money; unfortunately, the HAPPY Act (short for Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years) didn’t pass on Capitol Hill, despite a decent showing of public support. In spite of the HAPPY Act’s demise, there are some examples of tax-deductible pet care for our four-legged friends. We’ve outlined the biggies below:

Fostering: Maybe you and your family want to open up your hearts and become a foster pet parent. If you work with a qualified 501(c)(3) organization, you may be able to deduct your expenses as a charitable contribution. That means that your veterinarian visits, pet supplies, food, and other related expenses could qualify. Don’t forget to keep track of your mileage (provided the trip is for the organization). As always, make sure you keep careful records and receipts of your expenses. If your expenses are over $250, request an acknowledgement from the charitable organization. If you use TurboTax, TurboTax ItsDeductible will value and track your donations so you have them all together when it comes time to file your taxes. As a result of Van Dusen v. Commissioner, animal rescuers nationwide that are fostering dogs and/or cats for approved charities may claim the expenses during tax time. Even a portion of your utilities can be considered expenses as long as a specific area of your home is only used for the care of the animals and nothing else.

Service Animals: Another situation where you may be able to deduct expenses is if your furry friend is a service animal. You must register your pet with a legitimate agency to prove that it is a service animal and not just a pet. Additionally, if you have a guard dog to protect your business you may be able to claim some of the costs as a business expense. You can deduct expenses such as training and veterinarian care, but like service dogs, you need an agency to declare the four legged protector a guard dog.

Moved? According to Kiplinger, If you moved during the tax year, it might be possible to deduct your moving expenses – including those specifically related to moving your dog. For example, if moving your dog requires special expenses, those expenses are treated no differently (in the federal government’s eyes) than any of your personal effects. Making special arrangements to get Fido from your old home to your new one? Save the receipts!

Rescue and Shelter Donations: It would be easy to assume that the costs of adopting a dog from a registered non-profit, 501(c), would be deductible – the assumption would be wrong. The cost to adopt a dog is not deductible. However, any donations made in excess of regular adoption fees most certainly are. According to the law, only those donations made where no goods or services are received in exchange (i.e., your new dog) can be deducted. Should you choose to make donations to your favorite 501c dog charity, make sure to ask for a letter of receipt that states no goods or services were received. Donations of both goods and services to an approved charity are tax deductible. When donating goods or services to an approved charity, ask for a donation receipt – you’ll need it if the value of your donations exceeds $250. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. It may seem small, but every little bit helps! Local animal shelters need your newspaper, old towels, sheets, pet beds, sweaters, crates and blankets. They may also be looking for items such as digital cameras, video recorders, printers, fans, heaters, cleaning supplies, office equipment, printer paper, carpeting, and furniture. You can also purchase and donate new items including food, toys, new litter boxes, dog beds, and cat trees. Even if your donation isn’t useful to the shelter itself, they might be able to use it to raise funds. The value of items donated can be a tax deduction! Again, assuming they are a qualified organization, you can deduct the fair market value of the property at the time of the contribution, so keep track of what you give and when, and be sure to save the receipts of those newly purchased items. Any cash donation you make to a qualified charitable organization is tax deductible for those who itemize deductions. Don’t know if your favorite rescue fits the bill? Check out IRS Publication 78 for more information on qualifying organizations. While you typically cannot deduct the value of your time, you can deduct mileage traveling to and from the shelter or rescue. The IRS allows a deduction of 14 cents per mile driven in service of a charitable organization. Keep a notebook in your car to track mileage, or use an iPhone or Android app such as Mileage Pad.

Walkers and Trainers: If you own and operate a business with dogs, of course your dog-related business expenses are deductible. If you’re a trainer, you may be able to deduct mileage or transportation costs for visiting clients and their dogs. If you’re a dog walker and need to purchase business related items like leashes and poop bags, those expenses can be itemized. As with any job-related expense, just make sure to keep all receipts and be able to prove the items were for job duties, not for your personal pet.  

Fellow dog lovers, what advice do you have for fellow dog owners on what expenses to claim on their taxes? Do you know any key ones we’re missing? Be sure to share and lets tough out this tax season together!

How do dogs help people in Stress Reduction?

by Lorna Ladd 0 Comments

Chances are, if you’re here reading this, you’re a dog lover. And if you’ve ever had a canine (or feline) companion in your life, you don’t need us to tell you that pets are great at relieving stress. Most dog lovers can’t imagine their life without their best friend, and they say that dogs simply bring more joy to their lives.

dog-lovers--dogs-stress-relieversImagine this: You just had a stressful day at work. Your boss yelled at you for a simple mistake. Your co-workers are talking about how layoffs are coming. Maybe you were so busy, you rushed through lunch, barely having time to taste your tuna sandwich. Or maybe you were so busy, you missed lunch altogether. The phone was ringing off the hook. Nothing seems to be going right.

I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced a day like this at least once in their life. Some live it daily. And overall, humans are more stressed now than ever before. Not only can stress give you a headache, too much stress can also kill you. High blood pressure is a dangerous problem, far too many people face. Sure, some if it comes from poor diets, but too much stress can also be a culprit.

How can dogs be a natural stress reliever copyAnd it’s no wonder that so many people are looking into natural stress relievers. Yoga. Exercise. Herbal remedies. All of these have been touted as natural stress relievers, and have been credited with having some degree of success. But you can also add one more item to that list. Dogs.

Go back to the scenario above. Now picture yourself coming home, defeated, stressed, and utterly worn down. When you get home, you probably just want to crash on the couch, flip on the TV, and forget about life for a moment. But then, once your key hits the lock on the front door, you hear the scampering of paws or the sound of a familiar bark. And as the door opens, your best friend is there waiting for you, their tail wagging nonstop, and their tongue out, ready to cover you with kisses. Your dog is there to tell you they love you no matter what, and they’re so happy to see you!

How can you not feel at least a little better after that?

There are many health benefits associated with owning a pet, not the least which is a reduction of stress. And while many of us probably knew that owning a dog or cat could lead to a happier life, based solely on our own lives and experiences, we now have science backing this up.

A 2001 study found that patients with high blood pressure were able to keep their blood pressure down during periods of high stress simply by owning a pet. In fact, you don’t even have to own a pet to experience the natural relaxation an animal can bring.

The reason for this is when you interact favorably with an animal, the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin is released, while your body decreases production of the cortisol – what is often called the stress hormone.

And there’s more good news for pet owners. Another study showed that people who owned pets were more likely to survive at least a year after having a heart attack.

Natural Stress Reduction- with dogs copyAs far as how to reap the benefits of having a pet, all you really have to do is play with one or pet one. Or spend some quality time with them, sharing some yummy treats  or laughing when they get DogsButter  stuck to the roof of their mouths! This is, of course, good news for all of those folks who can’t have a pet right now. Volunteer at a shelter or hang out at the dog park for an hour or two, and you’ll reap the same benefits and feel much better physically and mentally.