I adopted my first dog, a shy beagle named Bart, almost ten years ago. When it came time to add a second dog to my life, I immediately turned to the same rescue organization to find him a companion. After spending time browsing photos and reading the bios of a number of dogs, I found myself going back to one in particular: a toy poodle mix named Peaches.

She had been rescued from life in a puppy mill and had a shaggy coat and soulful eyes that called out to me. And it wasn’t until I read her bio for the second time that I noticed she had a deformed front leg that she was unable to use. After meeting Peaches (renamed Daisy by her foster home), I knew that this scruffy, hobbling dog was meant to be mine. There was something special about Daisy, and during her seven years with me she ended up changing my life, making me a better person in the process.

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Remembering to Always Have a Positive Outlook

How Adopting a Special Needs Pet Changed My Life For the Better

Even with everything Daisy went through in the first six years of her life, she was a happy-go-lucky dog. Her tail was always wagging and she enjoyed every moment of her new life of freedom, refusing to let her mobility issues and medical problems slow her down. I’d watch Daisy hop down the sidewalk on our walks and any stress from my day would instantly melt away. She’d get going so fast that she’d occasionally trip and fall, but then she’d get right back up as if nothing had happened, continuing down the sidewalk like the confident dog she was. It was the perfect reminder that we all hit bumps along the way, but we shouldn’t let them stop us from continuing down the path of life with determination.

She put smiles on the faces of everyone she met, and they would often stop me to ask about what happened to her leg. I used the opportunity to educate people about puppy mills, telling them how she had been used as a breeding dog for six years and was discarded after she was no longer producing litters. The puppy mill had tattooed the number “80” on her ear, which served as a reminder of the life she had before being rescued. Sharing the story of her beginnings helped me educate countless people about puppy mills and inspired me to get involved in animal advocacy. Thinking of Daisy and her feisty spirit gives me the motivation to keep fighting, even when it seems like a never-ending, uphill battle.

As Daisy aged and her tired, little body started to fail, she remained determined as she worked to navigate the neighborhood on her three unstable legs. She enjoyed walks in the same joyful way, albeit at a much slower pace, and she never stopped wagging her tail. Daisy changed my life forever, and after having to say goodbye to her, which is undeniably the hardest thing any pet guardian has to go through, I decided to adopt another dog that needed a little extra care.

A Lesson in Patience and Understanding

 How Adopting a Special Needs Dog Changed My Life for the Better

Bumble Bree Photography

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After meeting a few dogs I decided to adopt Myrtle, a sweet senior that had also been rescued from life in a puppy mill. Myrtle doesn’t have any physical limitations or medical issues, but the emotional damage of life in a puppy mill presented a new set of challenges. She’s fearful and gets overwhelmed by everyday experiences, but her personality is bursting with playful energy. She loves people and other dogs, always greeting them with an excited tail wag as she playfully paws at their legs.

Seeing Myrtle’s progress as we work through her insecurities reminds me that no challenge is too big to tackle. I try to apply that to my life by refusing to let insecurities get in the way of accomplishing my own goals. Sure, I’ll experience setbacks and sometimes things won’t work out the way I wanted, but if I keep trying, eventually they will. Adopting Myrtle after losing Daisy also helped me heal, and I found myself remembering to live in the moment and celebrate each day.

Having pets with special needs has taught me to be patient, understanding, and appreciative of the little things in life that I used to take for granted. I’ve also learned to slow down and enjoy quiet activities that help calm my mind in the midst of a chaotic day. The bonds I’ve created with these special dogs have changed my life in incredible ways, and I’m forever grateful for having them in my life.

In-text image source: Arianna Pittman

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Lead Image Source: Pixabay/pexels.com

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