Category Archives: special needs pet

Rolling Dog Ranch, a Sanctuary for Disabled Pets

By Linda Cole

Even pets can go through an illness, be born with a deformity, injured in an accident, or suffer from old age that leaves them disabled. I had a dog who lost his sight and hearing as he aged. But neither disability stopped him from leading a relatively normal life. He didn’t give up, and there was no way I was going to give up on him. Unfortunately, not every pet has an owner who is willing to do what’s necessary to meet their animal’s needs, and some disabled pets are in shelters because of it. Disabled pets are not as likely to find new homes, yet these are loveable animals whose only crime was having a disability someone didn’t want to deal with. Steve Smith and Alayne Marker decided to do something about this, and opened a one-of-a-kind sanctuary for special needs pets, called Rolling Dog Ranch.

Steve and Alayne founded Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary in December of 2000. Located on 160 acres in western Montana, the ranch fulfilled a dream they both had of opening a sanctuary specifically for disabled pets. They decided to call the ranch “Rolling Dog” after watching their dogs roll around in the grass on this beautiful ranch in the Blackfoot River Valley.

The problem with their location in Montana was the distance they needed to travel for vet care, supplies, groceries and everything else they needed, along with finding good employees and volunteers to work in such a remote area. In early 2010 they moved the Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary and its disabled pets to a new location in New Hampshire. Located in the White Mountains, their new sanctuary is much closer to all the services they need, and even though it’s a little smaller at 120 acres, there’s still plenty of room for the animals. This includes blind dogs, cats and horses, deaf dogs, three-legged dogs and cats, and some with medical problems like muscular dystrophy.

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Adopting a Special Needs Pet

I live with a wonderful, happily “normal” American Staffordshire Terrier named Skye. But Skye has special needs, and adopting a pet with special needs is not for everyone. You need to do your homework and make sure this is a task you want to undertake, because no matter how much you love this animal, some days may feel like a chore to you. I have been very lucky and don’t feel that Skye is any burden at all, but some of the sites I did research on mention that a pet with special needs is just that. They mention that you may have emotional issues after adopting a pet with special needs. They also mention that you should remember to give yourself a pat on the back when you need one, because after all you have taken on an animal that may have issues, and you are to be congratulated for shouldering the responsibility.

Most of my dogs had special needs of one kind or another. My first dog lost a foot in a lawn mower accident. Smokey Bear had issues with a certain type of person after being beaten by his owner’s boyfriend. So your special needs pet may not have a medical problem; it could be emotional or psychological as well.

You need to make sure you are financially able to take care of their needs in addition to your own. If your special needs pet requires regular vet visits to monitor medication amounts in their blood, or tests to make sure their organs are functioning normally, you need to be able to cover any fees this entails. I will tell you now, there are a lot of pet insurance companies that will not cover pre-existing conditions. I found that out before I even adopted Skye. If your special needs pet must sleep in a crate at night or have a crate when traveling, can you afford it? If they need any special equipment to be able to move around, you need to consider the fees for purchasing the equipment. Will there have to be adjustments to that equipment as your special needs pet ages?

If you choose to travel with them, you need to make sure that your special pet is welcome where you are going. If they are on medication, you need to have enough for your trip and several extra days, in case your return home is delayed. The same thing goes for their food if they are on a special diet. Traveling with a pet with special needs can be like traveling with a human baby. Along with a regular leash and collar you need to have the food you are feeding, any medication they are on and an enclosure they can rest inside safely. If they are on other supplements or need special water, you need to have that with you too.

If you are unable to travel with your special needs pet, you need to find someone who can take care of your pet. The person you choose should be responsible and able to medicate your pet if they need any shots or special medications. They should also be able to get your pet to the vet in a timely manner if the need arises.

There are many joys associated with adopting a pet with special needs. While we have encountered some issues with Skye, they were not insurmountable. Someone recently asked me if I would adopt Skye again, if I were given the chance to go back. My answer was a resounding “Yes.”

Ruthie Bently

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.