In many, even most, open-admission shelters across the country, like the Nevada Humane Society, special-needs animals are never given a chance. Those deemed too old, too weak or too difficult to treat often never see the adoption floor, never see their second chance.
As a community, we are fortunate as that is never the case here in Northern Nevada. Yet, the treatment of these most vulnerable animals presents a growing strain on NHS — more than 80 percent of the animals we take in require treatment and in excess of 30 percent of the animals in our care need profound medical intervention.
For me, this is a very personal issue. When I was in my early 20s, I began hemming and hawing over whether to adopt a dog. I wanted one, but I worked too much, I wasn’t sure I had time — the list of excuses went on and on. My older sister, the relentless attorney, constantly sent me pictures of dogs who needed homes. One afternoon, three days before Christmas, my defenses eroded by carols and greeting card commercials, she broke me. There were 20 dogs, all younger than 6 months old, that were scheduled for euthanasia that day. I knew I was done when I buckled myself into my car that day — I was coming home with a dog.
I arrived at the very rough shelter and all of the aforementioned puppies were in one large cement room. Adorable, adoptable dogs surrounded me. Some sat quietly, others patted softly at my shoe. I looked up, gob smacked that these were the dogs marked for destruction and I saw a stately brown creature rise from the couch. He looked like a 40-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. He stretched and then without warning soared off the sofa in a high, arcing leap that seemed to climb for miles. This was the Carl Lewis of dogs! He gracefully returned to the bounds of earth and flopped on his side, sliding head first into the door. He stood up, shook his head and began sprinting around the room in loping circles. That was my dog. He left that place dog No. 46593 and became Horatio Ryan (don’t ask, he wasn’t named after “CSI: Miami”). Three days later, without prior warning, I brought him to my family’s Christmas celebration. My family came out into the frozen driveway to see what all the commotion was and I simply said “Peasants, meet Horatio. Horatio, meet peasants.”
He died a little less than two years later, just past his second birthday.
For Horatio and me, it was love at first sight. From the moment we met, he never left my side. He had many amazing feats of athleticism, stupidity, heroism and love. He had also endured terrible hardship. Upon our first vet visit, we discovered he had suffered several broken ribs consistent with injuries sustained after being kicked. He had a number of circular scars on his hips and hind legs that the veterinarian was sure were the ghosts of cigarette burns. We’d later learn that he had a profound seizure disorder. None of this dimmed his lust for life or his love of people. After countless medications ranging from Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide to Kepra, along with medical treatments ranging from the doggie neurologist to two stints in the emergency vet, Horatio died in my arms. It was a terrible two years and it was the most amazing two years. I loved him and he loved me. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Special-needs animals are truly amazing pets. With a little love, they morph from animals with life-threatening conditions and heartbreaking injuries into our pets. They become our family. Horatio will forever and always be a part of me. I hope you’ll consider adopting or fostering a special needs animal today because for just one animal you can make the world of a difference. We need your help.
To hear more about Horatio’s many adventures and misadventures, visit our blog at http://www.nevadahumanesociety.org.
Kevin M. Ryan is chief executive officer of the Nevada Humane Society.
Events that help animals
Precious Not Parents runs through June 30. Puppies and kittens can get pregnant at 4 months old. Get them fixed for $20 this month at Nevada Humane Society because unplanned litters create millions of pets with no place to call home. Book your appointment today at Nevada Humane Society by calling 775-856-2000, ext. 333. Pets must be younger than 6 months. Funded by PetSmart Charities.
The fourth annual Cat Convention, All Things Cats, is June 28 at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in the Grand Ballroom. Shop for cat-related supplies, gifts, artwork and more, plus visit felines for adoption. Details: 775-856-2000.