Lately, advertisements have featured individuals of more diverse types: blind, Down’s Syndrome, wheelchair users, persons with autism, and so forth. There are plus-size fashion models and those who have Down’s Syndrome or prosthetic limbs that they don’t try to hide when doing photoshoots or runway modeling. One model received particular praise for allowing her insulin pump to show beneath her designer clothes.
Now even disabled pets are used in advertising. You may not have noticed it, but every year those Cadbury TV commercials include not just the lion wearing bunny ears, but one pet chosen in some sort of contest in which fans nominate their own pets to appear. This year it’s Betty, a frog that beat out over 12,000 other submissions. Last year it was Lieutenant Dan, a dog who had only two legs and used a prosthetic/wheel-type device to allow it to get around better. It was hard to notice at first, but as the commercial was repeated (endlessly), it became easier to see. (The frog has no obvious disabilities. It sure looks weird with bunny ears, though.)
It’s good that pets with disabilities are finally getting some representation in the media. There are a lot of animals that need special care. There’s a no-kill cat shelter near me that has a whole room of special needs cats. Most of them have conditions that need medication, but some are vision- or hearing-impaired or have other sorts of disabilities. I once cat-sat for a week for a friend’s pets, one of whom needed insulin injections. He was really chill about it and never gave me a bit of trouble. He would just lie there and let me get on with it. Our cats were a little less chill when we had to give them subcutaneous fluid injections for failing kidneys, but they got used to it. (Our vet taught us how to do it. My husband would never be the one to stick the needle in. The extra fluid made the cat look lumpy until the body absorbed it. But I digress.) Other cats and dogs may be blind or mobility-challenged and simply need help going up and down stairs.
Shelters have a hard time placing animals that aren’t perfect and perky. The animals most often adopted are puppies and kittens, which are, after all, adorable. But there are plenty of other animals that need “forever” homes too. Not all of them have physical disabilities, either. Some dogs suffer from PTSD, especially if they were working dogs during the war in Afghanistan.
Others are elderly, well beyond the puppy/kitten stage. That’s not really a disability, except when it comes to being adopted. Dan and I have adopted senior cats fairly often. For one thing, they have the advantage of already knowing how to use a litter box, and they don’t climb the drapes the way kittens do. Many of them are already neutered.
It’s a shame when someone gives up a pet because it’s no longer perfect. But there are other reasons senior and disabled pets are considered unadoptable. For example, the pet might belong to a senior person who is no longer able to care for it anymore. Those reasons are understandable, but they may leave non-cute non-kittens and puppies stranded in shelters, sometimes for the rest of their lives – or have their lives cut short when no one adopts them.
What I’m saying is open your heart to a different sort of pet. Adopt the “unadoptable.” Consider that dog that needs a set of wheels or that cat that needs daily medication. If you provide a loving home, I guarantee that you will get that love back many times over. We owe it to pets to give a little help when they need it.