Who’s Savin’ Who?

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Starting this Sunday morning, I’ll be pleased to share facilitator duties with my great friend and author colleague, Barbara Techel, leading the discussion about special needs pets and the wonderful and unexpected ways they change our lives, on the Facebook fan page of bestselling author and pet expert Darlene Arden!

Darlene is a respected animal behavior expert, whose new book, The Complete Cat’s Meow: Everything You Need to Know About Caring For Your Cat, just hit the shelves from Howell Book House. She’s been hosting these weekly chats about all things pets for years now on her Facebook page. Thanks to FB’s recent changes, she’s moved the discussion to her fan page, which unfortunately cost her the rich archives of previous discussions. But let’s help her populate her new forum with a lively discussion of our own, shall we? Like any gray cloud, this one has a silver lining: It’ll make it REAL easy to find the link to our discussion, since ours will be the second one listed!

So, what’s it all about?

Well, Barb — author of the popular and insanely well-selling Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog book series, which chronicles the real-life story of her dachshund who became partially paralyzed from the effects of IVDD — and I will be facilitating an open, week-long conversation about the challenges of living with and caring for special needs pets, and the incredible and often surprising ways their presence in our lives can uplift, fulfill and inspire us.

The title of our discussion comes from the common experience of the humans, who adopt or rescue these special needs critters from shelters or from being thrown away because they’re no longer “whole” or “perfect,” that while we thought we were rescuing the animals, in the end we learn that they have somehow rescued us. And it’s all being hosted by Darlene, on her Facebook Discussion Page.

So join us, won’t you? All you need do is join Facebook, and “Like” Darlene’s fan page, then you’re all set and ready to post your questions, comments and resources to share with others like us who really care about giving special needs pets the quality of life and love they so richly deserve. Looking forward to “seeing” you there!

Remembering Lucy

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Lucy wasn’t a special needs dog, unless you count needing a little extra attention every time she entered a room. Lucy was just special.

She worked as a therapy dog for special needs people, and I just wanted to share this little memorial from Lucy’s people. Lucy crossed the Rainbow Bridge yesterday, just shy of her 16th birthday. We send gentle thoughts to her family, whom we know will miss her, and we also send thanks to them for having shared her with so many during her time on this side of the Bridge.

It’s National Prevent Cruelty to Animals Month!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Photo by Jenna Mackenzie

April is National Prevent Cruelty to Animals Month.

Now, for some of us, that’s actually every day, and I’m guessing that includes everyone reading this post. But I think it’s a great idea to have a month devoted to reminding people that preventing cruelty is important and should be a priority every month.

Here at Almost Perfect Pets, we’re all too aware that cruelty, including active abuse and passive neglect, creates special needs animals out of pets who were once whole and healthy. It’s horrifying, it’s inexcusable, but most of all…it’s completely unnecessary.

As I type this, I have a purring ball of gray fur in my lap, my little Idgie who was born with anophthalmia. This is a condition in which kittens whose mothers were exposed to certain pathogens during pregnancy are born without eyes. (It’s also not unheard of in human babies, about one in 100,000 of which are born without any optical tissue whatsoever.)

The point is, Idgie was born without eyes. No one took them from her through an act of cruelty. But there are so many other kitties, puppies and other critters who have physical damage caused by other critters in unfortunate situations. Many of these come about through the neglect of their owners, who either don’t know not to allow certain animals to be alone together because they don’t get along, or who know and simply can’t be bothered to keep them apart.

But by far the worst are injuries inflicted by humans through intentional acts of cruelty. I’ve written of many of these right here, and without exception, these stories are deeply disturbing and profoundly moving. For those of us who love animals deeply, these stories are repugnant, but we feel obliged to read them in the hopes that perhaps there is some small thing we can do to stop it, to make it better, or at least to let others know so they, too, might add to the momentum against these horrid goings-on.

Today, I just want to remind you that there are groups out there whose sole purpose is to find animals who are suffering and to remove them from those situations, and to prevent such suffering from happening ever again. Joining and supporting the work of these organizations is something we can all do, no matter where we are or what we do for a living. We can join and support their activities with our dues, our donations of money and/or requested items, and through volunteer work.

Probably the primary mover and shaker in the anti-cruelty field is the ASPCA, of which I’ve been a member for years. Here’s a video they made to commemorate 145 years of preventing cruelty to animals. If you’re not already a member, please consider joining us in this worthy goal.

Blind As A Bat(ty)

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Been away for a while and thought this would be the perfect way to come back with a bang.

Many of you know that a quarter from each sale of Almost Perfect, our book about disabled pets, is donated to Animal Welfare Karpathos, the only animal rescue on the Greek island. The author of the final essay in the book, Roberta Beach Jacobson, runs the rescue with her partner, Alf Meier.

They made this delightful little vid about Batty, a blind kitten there. I wanted to share it with you, because it reminds me very much of the way my blind cat, Idgie behaves, and shows what a full, happy life blind pets are capable of leading. It also carries a poignant message we all need to be reminded of. So take a few minutes and give it a look, won’t you?


Posted on by Mary Shafer

Today, I just want to share a little bit of this and a little bit of that, all of it about disabled pets.

Daisy was always looking up to the positive side of life. Look at that smile!

First off, it would hardly be fitting to start with anything other than a nod to Daisy, the sweet little Doxie who, for 16 years, was the mascot for our friends at Eddie’s Wheels. Daisy crossed the Rainbow Bridge last week, and is now running unencumbered through the fields of gold. We will miss her stalwart little presence, but I could hardly do justice to saying goodbye any more than Barb Techel did over on her Joyful Paws blog. Daisy and Eddie’s Wheels played a huge part in the story of Frankie, The Walk ‘n Roll Dog, so I’ll just let her say it much better than I could.

Next, I want to share a discussion of a great book about a blind cat and his amazing story. This one covers Homer’s Odyssey over at SodaHead. Great discussion with author Gwen Cooper!

And last for today, a tale about living with a disabled cat named Basil.

I think it’s appropriate on this MLK’s Birthday observance day, which so many of us mark by contributing a day of public service, to reflect on the service rendered by individuals to their disabled pets, and the incredible service they receive in return.


Happy New Year!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Well, 2010 was an active year in so many respects, but it was certainly a banner year for animals! Many, many puppy mills closed down, hoarders raided and the animals moved to sanctuaries where they’d be properly cared for, and FINALLY some legislation with teeth regulating puppy mills in Missouri, Iowa and Oklahoma.

There were, inevitably, major setbacks as well: hundreds if not thousands of birds, fish and other wildlife injured or killed in the Gulf oil leak disaster; dithering on “crush” video legislation; and a few games’ winning performance causing selective amnesia in football fans where Michael “The Dog Torturer” Vick is concerned.

But especially for special needs pets, it seems 2010 was a year of major progress. The rise of pet bloggers and the huge success of their own professional conference, “Blogpaws,” brought many of our issues to the fore. The momentum continued right into the mainstream press with several articles touting the adoptability of disabled pets, and that’s a REAL victory!

But I believe it was a grassroots readership of blogs far and wide — that may or may not have ever made it to Blogpaws — that began this groundswell of visibility for the plight of disabled pets. I say this because many of us were blogging long before there was such a thing.

So, at this time when we’re looking back over the year just past and forward to the New Year ahead, I’d like to give props to some of my fellow bloggers who have worked to make special needs pets more visible. Some of these are blogs dedicated to special needs pets, others have simply used their regular pet blogs as a platform from which to discuss this previously neglected topic. Doesn’t matter — whoever takes the time to speak out for our Almost Perfect Pets speaks out on behalf of us all. I just wanna say a great big “thanks!” from all of us here at Almost Perfect Pets.

Joyful Paws – Home of Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog and her mom, Barb Techel
Covered In Cat Hair – Mostly True Stories of a Life Spent With Cats
Pet News & Views – For pet and wildlife lovers
EddiesWheels.com – Help for handicapped pets
HandicappedPets.com – It’s all about products to help disabled pets.
PeTango – Finding best friends for life.
Animals Reign – Pet News You Can Use
PetSide.com – Part of the iVillage Home & Garden Network
Animal Friends UK – From our friends across the pond
Three Heelers Wild – About three happy heelers, two of them deaf, wild in Texas

I’m sure I’ve missed many, many excellent related blogs, but these are the ones I’m aware of and whose content has informed and moved me. I also think we owe a great deal to the programming on the incomparable Animal Planet TV channel, which brings us all kinds of heartwarming and sometimes scary, but always thought-provoking fare about our fellow travelers with fins, fur and feathers.

Here’s to another great year for our animal friends, with or without all their functions. We love ’em!

Progress! It’s Official: People Are Changing Their Minds About Disabled Pets

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Animal health specialists, rescue volunteers and medical supply makers all say they’ve seen a growing willingness in the American public to adopt or care for pets with ailments that once would have met with certain euthanization.

So says this article in the Winnipeg Free Press. We’re just tickled that it refers to our friends Leslie over at Pawsible Marketing, Ed and Leslie at Eddie’s Wheels and Joyce and Mike over at Pets With Disabilities! All fantastic folks we follow on their blogs and many SocMed sites.

Leslie at Eddie’s says it best, winding up the article with, “These animals don’t feel sorry for themselves one little bit,” she said. “They really have a lot to teach us.”

It’s not a sentiment any of us will find surprising, but the fact that the message is getting out to the wider public is so very encouraging! The original Associated Press article by Tom Breen was picked up by many online news sites, including the Washington Examiner. So it’s heartening to know our efforts are having some positive impact.

An Update on Tashi

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Those who’ve been following Almost Perfect Pets for a while will remember Tashi, the little gray tiger who serves as mascot for Tabby’s Place Cat Sanctuary in Ringoes, NJ. I’ve blogged about him before, when he came to visit to represent Tabby’s Place at our Prevent Cruelty to Animals Week presentation a couple years ago, and again when I did my MLK Jr. Day of Service last year at Tabby’s.

Photo of Tashi in his cart from SparkleCat’s blog

Well, I’m always interested in keeping up with Tashi’s progress, and thought you might be, too. So here’s an update:

A week ago, Sparkle, the award-winning author, supermodel and cat, interviewed Tashi on her blog.

Sparkle is one beautiful puss.

There’s a LOT of great information on all the fantastic progress Tashi’s made in regaining mobility. I could blather on about it, but I think Sparkle did a great job, so I’ll just share that interview with you here! Hint: Tashi’s got a cart — we’re so excited! Thanks for the great interview, Sparkle!

Something We Can Do Something About

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Too often on this blog, we have to deal with sad situations that are out of our control; situations that result in injured or disabled pets. But today I want to remind you that there is one situation that too often results in these things, but this doesn’t have to happen. I’m talking about natural disasters.

With today being the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast, I think it’s an appropriate time to revisit the idea that human parents can and should create a disaster plan for their families that includes ALL their kids, including their fur babies. Considering that as I type, there are three active tropical systems churning their way across the Atlantic toward the US, this concern gains somewhat more urgency.

As a member of our township’s Emergency Management Agency, I’m all too aware of the need for families to have an emergency disaster plan. I also know that failing to plan means planning to fail, and as responsible parents of any kind of critters from human to the tiniest fish, we can’t allow ourselves that kind of complacency. So I urge you: If you haven’t yet created a family emergency plan that includes what to do with your pets in case you can’t get back to your home or you must evacuate, PLEASE prioritize this activity. You may not live near a coast that puts you in danger from hurricanes, but I guarantee you’re in the path of some sort of natural or man-made disaster, regardless where you’re located.

Happily, one of the results of the Katrina debacle was the realization by government and other disaster authorities that many people consider their pets “family,” giving them every bit of the love and regard denoted by that word. The fact that so many humans died because they were unwilling to leave their beloved pets behind to die alone was a massive wakeup call for these authorities. One of the most significant outcomes of this realization was a major policy shift on the part of the American Red Cross.

As wonderful and necessary as this organization is, for far too long it neglected the needs of companion animals in time of emergency. Aside from the clear neglect caused by this blind spot regarding the actual feelings and beliefs of pet owners, the organization also overlooked the very real negative impacts on already-traumatized humans forced to abandon their pets because they weren’t allowed in the emergency shelters. The horrifying results of this short-sighted policy during the Katrina-Rita-Wilma emergencies forced a new look at it, resulting in an enlightened new policy.

Though some Red Cross chapters still refuse to shelter pets, that tendency is falling by the wayside. An increasing number of chapters either accept pets in nearby pet-only shelters run as an adjunct to their human sheltering activities, or work closely with local pet rescue organizations to provide guidance for pet owners to get their animals to a safe place while they’re sheltering out of their homes. The Red Cross now directly addresses pet safety issues in their general public directives regarding evacuations and sheltering. They’ve developed a guide to effective animal first-response, and training for those who need it for such efforts.

Much of this response was mandated by House bill 3858, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act of 2006, more commonly referred to as the PETS act. Now, many states, counties and municipalities have formed their own Animal Response Teams.

Where we live, it’s called B-CART or Bucks County Animal Response Team. This all-volunteer group is dedicated to working with local people in the event of evacuation for any disaster to provide safe, temporary shelter for companion animals, with the goal of reducing stress on the animals and their families during such relocations. It’s hoped that their providing this alternative housing will reassure those who might otherwise opt to put themselves and their pets at risk during an evacuation because they can’t be together. The animal and human shelters are actually not in the same locations, due to health and sanitary regulations, but every effort is made to allow reasonable access to one’s pets at the separate location.

Don’t have an ART in your area? Consider starting one!

Whatever else you do, please find out NOW what your options are to make sure your whole family is safe during emergencies. Make a plan and make sure all your family members know what that plan is. Not only will this give you one less scary thing to have to deal with during an already upsetting time, it’ll give you a whole lot more peace of mind while it’s happening and make recovery so much easier. Let’s make sure we’re all part of the solution, because this kind of sadness need never happen again.

Happy Birthday, Frankie!

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Just had to sign on for a quick well-wishing to our little pal Frankie, the Walk ‘n Roll Dog. Frankie’s ten years old today, and has now been bringing her parents, Barb and John, joy for a decade!

Frankie’s one of the first special needs critters who welcomed us on the scene back in 2008 when we first released Almost Perfect. Since then, we’ve gotten to be very good friends and even got to meet each other in person earlier this summer during my trip to the Midwest. I felt very comfortable at home with Frankie, Barb, John and Kylie, Frankie’s big blonde sister, and really miss seeing them all.

Everybody jump on over to wish Frankie a fantastic fun time today. We all hope she’s rolling into at least another decade of adventures and educating people about IVDD in dachshunds, and about how pets can live full, rich, happy lives even with a disability.