Owners of disabled dogs often have to overcome unique challenges. These humans have dedicated their lives to helping make it a little easier to give those dogs a full and happy life.
Mark Robinson: The Pet Mobility Maker
Twenty years ago, Mark Robinson created a website called HandicappedPets.com so that caretakers of disabled animals had a place to talk and share information. The group is now called Walkin’ Pets and offers not only a community but a large array of products that help dogs and other animals overcome a number of different types of disabilities.
Once Mark gave caregivers the space on the website, he listened to them, which led him to design and patent the world’s first adjustable dog wheelchair.
It isn’t just the thousands of thank-you letters that fill Mark’s office that confirm he has helped animals and their families. He gets to see their joy as well. One such moment happened when a family brought in their dog, Denali, who hadn’t walked in years. After being fitted for his own wheelchair, Denali took off across the parking lot. It was so unexpected that nobody had thought to bring a leash with them! Now, with the help of Walkin’ Pets and Mark, Denali gets to hike with his family. “It’s a story about a family able to play again,” Mark says.
Walkin’ Pets’ mission statement echoes what Mark himself passionately feels and what has driven him through his career. “We believe that pets are family and that elderly, disabled and handicapped pets deserve to live a happy, healthy life.”
❤ More at handicappedpets.com.
Christina Lee: The Deaf Dog Advocate
When Christina Lee and her husband adopted Nitro, a deaf Boxer, 11 years ago, they didn’t know it would start them on a path to becoming advocates for specially abled pups, but that’s exactly what happened. The nonprofit Deaf Dogs Rock, which Christina founded, is a place anyone can turn to for help in raising, adopting or re-homing a deaf dog.
When Nitro was still a puppy, Christina realized that they might have bitten off more than they could chew. The couple looked to what they knew might help — training. In class, Nitro was so bright and learned sign cues so fast he was awarded his AKC Canine Good Citizen Award by the time he was 10 months old before going on to Therapy Dog training.
Christina came to understand that deaf dogs have super powers because of their heightened senses. “Deaf dogs are much more in tune and bonded to their person because of them constantly watching our facial expressions and body language,” she explains.
Christina’s passion to change the perception that deaf dogs are untrainable led her to start Deaf Dogs Rock, which offers a number of services to help the lives of deaf dogs everywhere. They work with partner rescues and assist by sponsoring deaf dogs and featuring them on their website, they promote and offer resources on how to use positive reinforcement training and care for a specially abled pup, and they promote stories of successful adoptions.
Christina gets emails daily from families that have been helped by her group. The servicers and tools Deaf Dog Rock allow owners to keep the family dog they were worried they didn’t have the skills to help.
❤ More at deafdogsrock.com.
Silvie Bordeaux: The Halo Hero
Ten years ago, Silvie’s heart dog, Muffin, lead her to the creation of her company, Muffin’s Halo Guide for Blind Dogs, focused on helping and supporting those special pups with limited or no sight.
At that time, Muffin, a Toy Poodle, started to bump into things. It was clear that 11-year-old Muffin’s eyesight was failing. As Silvie struggled to find ways to help her pup, Muffin was also diagnosed with a mass in his stomach. While seeking treatment, a vet mistakenly lacerated Muffin, causing him to start losing blood. Silvie told God that if Muffin survived, she would dedicate her life to helping blind dogs. It was a hard three weeks, but Muffin made it and Silvie set out to keep her promise.
She realized that if he could “see” where he was going then he would be freer and happier! The result was Muffin’s Halo, which has a harness that tightly wraps around the body, making the dog feel cuddled and safe, and foam angel wings that hold the flexible and adjustable halo in place. When Muffin wore it, he was able to “bump” into objects without hurting himself and be able to feel that objects were close so he would know to stop or turn away.
Silvie has shipped over 40,000 Muffin’s Halo’s to dogs worldwide. She didn’t stop there. She started the nonprofit Second Chances for Blind Dogs. The organization helps fund Muffin’s Halos for blind dogs’ families and shelters that are not able to afford the product.
Silvie considers the start of her business a love story between Muffin and her, and continues working to fulfill her promise.