Special needs dogs includes those dogs with hearing or sight impairments, amputees and paralysis.
These dogs are not labeled handicapped as they do not KNOW they have a physical challenge. Unlike humans, they do not recognize that anything is wrong. Canine culture dictates immediate adaptation, which is a survival instinct. Our philosophy here at Kindred Souls is to “normalize” the dog by allowing the dog the SAME education and sociability afforded dogs with no physical difficulties. Our job is to make them “whole” again by effectively communicating and thereby educating.
Most special needs dogs CRAVE communication and have a right to learn. Especially deaf dogs. The dog that comes most to mind, out of all the special needs dogs we have trained (many to the point of Therapy Dog Certification, helping others), is a Jack Russell Terrier named “Darwin”. Darwin was not only deaf, but had been abused by his first owner. Adoptee Barbara Conover brought him to us after other schools had turned her down. Darwin was tentative and stoic. Barbara said he had not, to that point, ever wagged his tail. Two weeks into the program ( he was in a class with hearing dogs to help re-integrate him into the community) I was running through my signals with him. Up to this point he just looked at me like I was crazy. Then he cocked his head and responded to the signs I was using by WAGGING HIS TAIL. He knew I was communicating with him. At that point, it took him no time to associate the signs with the behaviors, and we created and entire sign language for him. Today he is one of our most popular Therapy Dogs.
All special needs dogs deserve to be spiritually and mentally elevated to achieve their potential. Nothing needs to be an obstacle if training and educating these dogs is approached individually and according to the dogs’ needs. We believe in them.
We currently have the most incredible 3 legged Brussels Griffon in class who has kept up with the same curriculum all the dogs with 4 legs are doing. He does his homework, performs his exercises and will most likely graduate with honors. This dog makes me cry…..never let him see it though, too much like pity, but his oblivion to his adversity, humbles me. Our gift to him is letting him know that legs or not, it is his right to be loved for who he is not what he has.
Dealing with these dogs, is a life lesson. They know how to push to forward button and keep going. They truly see beyond the exterior and accentuate the spirit. Once again….the teacher becomes the student.