Rewards of special-needs pets

I first saw Bolt in one of Nevada Humane Society’s cat rooms charming a visitor with his unsteady gait and big personality. A tabby and white male kitty with big jowls, Bolt was born wobbly, but his disability does not keep him down. He plays with gusto, purrs with pure contentment, and enjoys a can of cat food like it is caviar. Bolt knows how to enjoy life.

Watching Bolt get around is like a lesson in Zen practice. As one of my coworkers, Kari Riley said: “Falling down is a chance to relax a bit, maybe take a bath. Colliding with an obstacle, he gives it a quick glance and then is off toward his original goal.”

When Bold gets running, he’s pretty stable, but when moving more slowly, he uses the wall or the legs of a human friend for stability. He leans against your leg as you would walk, traveling along with you.

Bolt was born with cerebellar hypoplasia which gives him his jerky, uncoordinated movements. The disease does not get better or worse with age and most affected cats and dogs learn to compensate and have a normal lifespan. They just need a little more protection than the average pet.

We put out an appeal for a foster home for Bolt and a young woman named Donelle came in to meet him. Now, Bolt shares her home with Bentley, a miniature pinscher.

“He is having fun with Bentley; they both love each other. He sleeps next to me every night. I love having him,” she said.

We see many special-needs dogs too. Little Zoey, a tiny shivering poodle, arrived with a badly broken leg that had to be amputated. She would require special care to protect her from injuring any of her other delicate little legs. Even jumping down off a chair could put her at risk. I took her on TV seeking someone who could give her the care she needed. The next day a couple showed up to meet her and shy Zoey loved them at once. She was immediately calm and content in their presence — clearly, a match made in heaven.

Special needs pets require extra time, care and attention; they are not for everyone. But for the people who take these pets in, the rewards are rich. For one thing, you could get your own little live-in Zen master.

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