Home > Animal Rescue, Daisy, Dog Behavior, Jasper, Little Lady Lost, Pet Adoption > The House of Special Needs Dogs

The House of Special Needs Dogs

My sister once referred to my house as the “House of Special Needs Dogs.” At the time I laughed at her description, but in truth, she could not have described my home any better than she did. It’s true. I have a penchant for adopting and fostering those dogs who are most afraid, most emotionally damaged and unsocialized. I see possibilities where others see the impossible. You see, I DO believe that love can make a difference.

Working with special needs dogs requires patience, an understanding of what they truly need (not what you want), and being able to celebrate small victories as big ones. Every small step forward is often followed by two steps back, but you know that it will be followed by another step forward, eventually. There is a bond that builds between you and your dog when you have to build trust slowly, from the ground up, and earn it with every action and interaction you have with them.

Jasper and Daisy

With Daisy, it was that first tail wag. I cannot tell you how wonderful it was when I first realized that Daisy was actually wagging her tail instead of tucking it under her butt in fear. For those who have only had a “normal” dog this may not seem like a big deal, you probably see it every day, but to me it was the sunshine of my day, my week, my month. That one action was more rewarding and fulfilling than any other I can remember (and I know there have been many along the way).

With Jasper, it was less a step-by-step process. He has taken many leaps forward and only a few steps back. Most of his issues have to do with his inability to deal with new objects in his environment. If you can imagine how a puppy reacts when they first encounter something they haven’t seen before, you will get an idea of how Jasper reacts to new things. He barks, circles the object from a distance, approaches cautiously and eventually will get close enough to sniff. But, it takes time and patience. He has made huge strides in so many ways that the small steps back seem less consequential.


With Lady, it has been more of a slow progression of building trust. She needed to get a feel for our routine, the house rules and how I would be as her new foster mom (and adopted mom). She has always been a bit reserved and cautious, but after her 12 day adventure in the wild, things seem to have changed. She has slowly started to let her true personality shine through a little more each day. Yesterday was one of those days (kind of like Daisy and her first tail wag).

We went to the dog park in the late afternoon. Jasper was full of piss and vinegar and barking and trying to get me to throw a stick for him (one of his many obsessions). I decided to distract him with our usual game of chase. “I’m going to get you!” I said, and started to chase him. He was thrilled. He barked and raced ahead, spinning around as he went, waiting for me to get close enough to chase him again, when suddenly, out of the blue, Lady joined in. She started running with Jasper and then jumping and spinning, mimicking his behavior. Then, she gave a whole series of play bows, both to me and to Jasper. She wanted to play too! And, she did. For many minutes.

Lady barking

This may seem like such a small thing to many dog owners, but in the House of Special Needs Dogs, this is huge progress. Lady’s willingness to trust me and Jasper enough to join in a game of chase says so much. It means that she is letting go of any fears she has had about her new family and is realizing that not only is she finally “home”, but that home is a place where she can not only let her hair down, but be accepted and loved for just being herself. That’s the type of reward we celebrate at the House of Special Needs Dogs.

  1. January 31, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    That’s fantastic! You must have wanted to jump and spin and bark a little yourself! It’s wonderful how far Lady has come in really just a short time. It shows how much a little kindness and understanding can do. She feels more secure than ever. Congratulations!

    I’ll never ever forget the first time Shiva let a stranger pet her without freaking out. I practically blubbered on the spot.

  2. January 31, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    What a beautiful story! It’s amazing when we witness our dogs take that next step towards being the happy well-adjusted creatures we know they are deep down inside. I think that’s why I like the harder cases too – to help a dog get from a scared shell to a happy pet is a wonderful journey and kudos to you for taking in the hard cases!

  3. Jen
    January 31, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Oh, Lady! That’s so amazing!

    There are worse things than having a House of Special Needs Dogs ^^

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:40 PM

      Indeed there are! I think she’s feeling quite happy in her special needs home. 🙂

  4. January 31, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    Mel, what a wonderfully beautiful story, thank you so much for sharing. Although I have never had a special needs dog, I can see where you are coming from and if I ever had the pleasure of fostering a special needs dog, I would look to you for guidance and advice. I know each dog is different, but what I have been able to learn from you so far, love and patience are the two most important keys in having a dog feel safe and secure. Even if they are not special needs.


    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:40 PM

      Oh Donna. Thank you. You are so kind. A special needs dog is not for everyone, but it can be quite an experience if you do foster or adopt one.

  5. Jan
    January 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    I’ve never had a special needs dog, but my great admiration goes out to you. What a rewarding experience they are giving you for all your love and patience.

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      Thank you Jan. To be honest, I’ve never been much of a patient person but Daisy has taught me a lot. I’m willing to be patient to make them feel better. 🙂

  6. January 31, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Mel, I am just shining inside for you. I understand all too well about having special need dogs and I know how precious and monumental those moments are as you watch a little bit more of the real dog pop out from under that fear. Beautiful, isn’t it?

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:38 PM

      Your comment made me smile. I know you can relate to all I wrote so much more than most people. Brut probably would not have progressed as far as he has wiothout your love, patience and dedication. You’re right. They are momentous moments.

  7. January 31, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    Aw, it’s so amazing to see them let their fears go and be a dog 🙂 They are lucky to have you!! (I’m still smiling after reading this, thanks for that!!)

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:36 PM

      Oh Thank you Jules! To be honest, I had to go back and read what I wrote later today because it almost wrote itself. I feel lucky for all I have learned from them. They make me smile.

  8. January 31, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    What a moment of joy that must been. Awesome, Mel. Lady is making rapid progress with you.

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:34 PM

      It really was Leo. She made a lot of progress before me, but I am amazed that she has made even more progress and how far she has come in the last few months. Kind of cool eh?

  9. January 31, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    I love the name of your house 🙂 Jordan was a little like Daisy when we first got him. And Georgia, a little like Jasper. I understand the thrill of seeing a pound puppy adapt and finally fit into family life. It’s wonderful to be able to look back on the changes and realise how far they’ve come.

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:33 PM

      Thanks Miss Little Pea. I wasn’t sure if my sister was joking at first, but then realized she was absolutely right about my house. Isn’t it funny how much they change that we forget?

  10. January 31, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    It really is exciting when you see that moment of change in a dog’s behaviour. Our Best Friend’s progress has been more gradual, but when I look back three years, it’s amazing what a different dog I have!

    • Mel
      January 31, 2012 at 9:31 PM

      I so agree Lori. OBF is lucky to have someone like you who allows him the time to progress. 🙂

  11. February 1, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    My heart just took a twirl and I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes. I can totally picture Daisy’s tail wag and Jasper’s object issues. What terrific progress for all the dogs and for you, but for Lady! Oh my! To be so rambunctiously joyous so soon! That’s absolutely wonderful!

  12. February 3, 2012 at 9:40 AM

    I loved reading about each dog’s moment… so wonderful. 🙂

  13. February 4, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    Bonding with your dog helps them become trained as well. Our dog Kitkat has been too loved and has been returning the favor by acting as a trained dog even without formal schooling. You could read more about her here http://vilzonkennel.com/2011/10/14/kitkats-no-longer-a-baby/

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