Ever popular Stuey on wheels.

What is the first thing you think of when you see “Special Needs” on an adoption site? Foxy was one of our special needs dogs and this is what her mom says,

The phrase “special needs” doesn’t bother me.  I look more for a dog that will be a good fit for my home and family. 

Nobody’s perfect and that’s also true for the animal world.”

Most reactions will likely fall into two categories. The first being “Aww the poor thing!” and the second being “No thanks, too much work and money”

Foxy girl

 Let’s talk about the “Aww, the poor thing”

There are many definitions of “Special Needs”. Some animals come with a genetic defect that causes them to be lame, blind, or deaf. In those cases, the dogs don’t know any other way of being, they have adapted to their abilities and are for the most part just as happy and well-adjusted as any other dog. At other times, dogs have either been injured or experienced some disease that left them with a permanent condition that needs attention. In those cases, there is a wee bit of a “Aww, poor dog” factor.  But by the time these special dogs are ready for adoption they have over-come the odds. Their conditions are stable, and they are waiting for their families. All they need is someone who understands their condition and will ensure that the dog’s needs are met. All they need is someone like you!


That was the situation with Foxy. She was rescued off the streets of La Paz and had a limp. It is uncertain how she sustained the injury. Her rescuers had her assessed and together with the veterinarian felt the best solution to relieve the chronic pain was surgery.

Quote from Foxy’s mom now,

“It’s hard to tell she’s had hip surgery.  Today she runs like the wind along the shoreline. 

I think sometimes that leg does compromise her fast, tight turns but she takes it in stride. 

She can jump but it’s clear that she has some limitation.”

How do you define special needs?

There are many conditions that fall under the “Special Needs” moniker.  Dogs who lost an eye due to injury or an infection that wasn’t attended to. That dog may be a little clumsier than his dog pals but that can also be very endearing. You will learn to walk on his sighted side so he can see you and feel safe and more comfortable.

Three legged dogs believe it or not are quite common. Here in La Paz, leg injuries occur because some dogs are not contained in a yard but instead roam the streets where they can be hit by cars. Removing the leg relieves the chronic pain that the dog experiences daily. It is awkward for a while until they build up the muscles in the supporting legs to accommodate the missing limb. Dogs are so resilient and adaptable.

There are conditions that you can’t spot by looking at the dog. Perhaps there is a kidney condition or an enlarged heart or GI problems. All of these can be controlled with medication or diet, and yes sometimes it means medications for their whole life.

Maui as a puppy

Which Dog is Right for You?

It’s just a guess but if you are on this site, I am quite sure you have already decided to adopt a dog.

One thing for sure is that if you adopt a “Special Needs” dog you are likely saving his life. Most shelters across the country have a time limit of how long dogs stay in the adoption queue. The demand for space is so high that if a dog labeled unadoptable, they will be euthanized.  There are shelters that specialize in dogs that need special attention. Some foster families look only for special needs dogs so that they can give them a second chance at life.

That is usually the case of our rescuers here in La Paz. Many will take the worst cases off the street and spend months rehabilitating them until they are ready  for adoption where you will find them on our website. Most of the hard work has been done with our dogs.

This is Maui, he was born with his front legs under-developed but his hind legs made up for it as he grew up.

Special People Adopt Special Needs Dogs

People who adopt a “special needs” pet are unique. They have this “can do” attitude coupled with an infectious enthusiasm that transfers to the animal. They are committed to the success of the dog and will to do what it takes to make the animal a functional part of their family. That starts by providing a safe environment in their home and yard and goes on to provide training, exercise, and mental stimulation that their pet needs to become a well-balanced dog. Those are the goals of every pet owner regardless of the pet’s abilities.

Here is what Foxy’s mom says about her special attention.

Her veterinarian gives her Adequan injections on a continuing basis.  I take her to a dog gym, and she works with a trainer certified in canine body conditioning. 

She also enjoys warm water therapy.  But these are all being done as a preventative measure as I want her to be mobile and pain free as long as possible.”

If you are wondering why the picture is so blurry, Foxy moves so fast that it is all a blur! Clearly, she loves it.

Next is “No, thanks, Too much Work and Money”

Often these special pets are over-looked because people think there are extra costs that come with the special needs. That is often not the case. Blind and deaf dogs are perfectly healthy and can live long lives with their families. Deaf dogs can learn hand signals to communicate and even blind dogs can chase a ball because their sense of smell kicks in to help them find the ball. Dogs with loss of mobility chase around in their wheelchairs and can often keep up with their dog pals in the park. Dogs demonstrate their ability to adapt every day and their resilience is amazing.

Give them some love, and they will work magic for you every day. In fact, Foxy recently won the AKC Novice Trick Dog for 2020. Pretty darn good for a “Special Needs” dog!


Warm Water Training

Canine Body Conditioning

Tips to Prepare for a Special Needs Pet

No matter what condition these “special” pets have they deserve to have their “hoomans” plan and prepare the environment to ensure their unique needs are met.

  1. Find a Veterinarian that understands the dog’s condition
  2. Always follow your Veterinarians instructions
  3. Talk to a Specialist if necessary
  4. Establish a routine for exercise, feeding etc.
  5. Research on-line resources and support
  6. Explore and understand your options
  7. Maintain consistent surroundings for your dog


And take care of yourself. This is all new to you and your pet, take your time and enjoy the process of learning to care for each other.


Deaf dog with jacket

Body Conditioning