Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

After this month's edition of Belly Rubs went out, I received this email from one of our Embraced pet parents sharing her story about her differently-abled pets. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I'd share it with you.

Your latest Belly Rubs Newsletter (“Differently-abled Pets are AMAZING”) brought happy tears to my eyes, because you shined a very positive light on an issue that hits very close to home for me.

BenjaminMy sweet special-needs boy was Benjamin. A little schnauzer-beagle mix, he came into my life as the runt of an unwanted, pound-bound litter. When he looked up at me with those soulful brown eyes, I was a goner. He needed me and somehow I knew it. I couldn’t realize at the time just how right I would be...and just how much he would give back to me in return.

Within the first week of rescuing him, kennel cough surfaced. Shortly after, he began experiencing chronic digestive problems no one could seem to fully diagnose. After a couple of rough years full of trial and error, it was discovered he had a combination of food allergies and inflammatory bowel
disease (IBD). The search for a diet that would eliminate his symptoms began. Thankfully, the perfect food eventually came along. Little did I know…this medical struggle would only be the beginning.

Shortly after his fourth birthday, while chasing his favorite ball in the back yard, Ben ruptured a disk in his back. Our local vets didn’t have the facilities to repair the damage, so I transported him to the nearest neurology center...three hours away. It was there I was given the option to authorize the
very costly surgery, or have him put to sleep. He was part of my family. I couldn’t let him go without a fight. And so, I maxed out my credit cards, and the surgery began. Although the procedure prevented him from becoming a quadriplegic, his hind legs were permanently paralyzed. Thankfully, he was in no pain and still had a lot of fight left in him.

Ben (Special Olympics)The months that followed were full of sadness, frustration, and a lot of trial and error, while navigating through this new wilderness in which Ben and I now found ourselves. I held tight to my determination to give this precious little dog the best care possible, and to the faith that God would give me the strength and resources I needed to do so.

I had to do bladder expressions and bowel stimulations for Ben four times a day, but I devised ways of doing both that made the routine much easier and kept him clean and dry. I fitted him for a custom wheel chair, which vastly improved his quality of life.

Benjamin’s incredible spirit and patience with his new life was so moving, and his condition gifted me with the chance to enrich people’s lives in a distinctive way. I began taking him to nursing homes and adult daycare facilities for the developmentally disabled, where the vision of him in his wheelchair fascinated the residents and put them instantly at ease. He also enabled me to educate young children on the importance of accepting and embracing the differences that make us all unique.

As word spread around town (our local newspaper did a story about us), people began to seek me out for my advice and/or assistance in helping them grapple with their own special-needs pet situations. It was yet another positive way this challenge impacted my life. The day a young woman tearfully told me that meeting me and Ben had just helped her make the decision not to euthanize her
recently paralyzed dog will be one I will never forget.   

The road is difficult; however, the journey is worth the sacrifice. Life will be different, yes, but it can also be rich, beautiful, and more rewarding that you could ever imagine. As a special-needs pet parent, I realized I am a much stronger and resourceful person than I ever dreamed and I have to say, that kind of self-awareness is a priceless gift.

Bodhi & Stuffed Dog (low res)Benjamin passed away last April. Although I miss him terribly, I wouldn’t change a moment of our life together. I actually adopted a little carbon copy of him last November. He crossed my path when I least expected it. Another rescue terrier mix, his name is Bodhi, and he is the spitting image of Ben in
looks, temperament, attitude... He’s only lacking the wheels :-)  

My purpose for writing this letter and sharing my story with you is to let you know how much it meant to see a company like Embrace showing the wonderful, uplifting side of adopting special-needs pets. More often than not, people tend to focus on the negative aspects...the hard stuff...the challenges.

I also wanted to thank you for creating Embrace. When I went through everything with Ben, I didn’t have pet insurance to help defray the cost. When I first adopted him, I looked into getting a policy, but there wasn’t what I considered to be solid pet insurance companies out there back then. It was all too subjective and I didn’t feel confident the coverage would be there when I needed it. Consequently, I am still paying off Ben’s massive medical bills.

When I brought Bodhi into my life, I researched pet insurance again. This time, I found your incredible company. Right away, I knew it would be different. Your policies, your coverage, your amazing customer service team, and your general overall approach to the pet/person bond let me know I could be confident in purchasing a policy with you. And that is precisely what I did. In January of
this year, Bodhi’s policy took effect.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets

As we continue to explore the topic of differently-abled pets this month, Dr Patrick tells us about his experience with differently-abled pets and answers some questions from our Embracers who have
experience or talk with our pet parents who have differently-abled dogs and cats:

  1. Laura: one of the common stages of treatment for bone cancer (osteosarcoma) is to remove a dog or cat’s leg. What are the considerations that go into whether your pet is a good candidate for that treatment and how do these pets get on as “tripods”? 
  2. Sara: What can you do to prepare an aging pet for the possibility of going deaf or blind?
  3. Kate: Is it true that other senses are heightened when one is missing? For example, increased sense of smell or touch when sight is removed.
  4. Darcy: what are the special considerations when caring for an FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) cat?
  5. Laura: if I wanted to make room in my life for a differently-abled pet, how can I go about preparing for that pet and where do I find them?

Click on the link below for the audio podcast with the answer to these questions.

Laura Bennett & Dr Patrick Mahaney Differently Abled Pets

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

Other posts by Dr Patrick Mahaney

Dr Patrick Mahaney Dr. Mahaney is a veterinarian from the University of Pennsylvania and a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, having been inspired by his own chronic pain from Intervertebral Disc Disease to provide accupuncture to his veterinary clients. In addition to Dr Mahaney's house call integrative veterinary medicine business, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness, he sees patients on an in-clinic basis at Veterinary Cancer Group in Culver City, CA.

Dr Mahaney writes a veterinary column (Patrick's Blog) for and contributes to a variety of media, including Perez Hilton's, Fido Friendly, Veterinary Practice News, Healthy Pets and People with Dr Patrick on, and MSNBC Sunday with Alex Witt and Career Day. His first book, The Uncomfortable Vet, will be available in 2013 through Havenhurst Books

Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people

Dr Riggs shows us that dogs help us see beyond the obvious to the human behind the disability.

We live in a world where it seems like we need to put labels on everything and everyone. We need to pigeon-hole people according to race, sex, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, able bodied and disabled. We do the same to animals. Why do we do that? Do we classify animals and people so we can justify our perception of a particular group and expectations of them? I don’t know.  I do know when it comes to “so called” disabled people and pets, many assumptions just are not true.

Canine Companions for Independence girl with new dogI have had the pleasure to have been involved for many years, with a wonderful organization, Canine Companions for Independence. Canine Companions provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The assistance dogs are Goldens and Labradors, specifically bred to be service dogs.

The recipients of these special animals, truly have their lives transformed. Most no longer feel disabled. These dogs allow them to do almost anything you can do. One recipient told me that before he had his new companion, people rarely approached him in his wheel chair. Now with his new dog he said people treat him like… a person. Imagine that!

We all have our limitations and challenges in life. Some are more obvious than others. The “disabled” are people too, and many have never seen themselves as disabled. So don’t be afraid. Interact. You too may be as fortunate as I have been, and gain a whole new circle of friends.

For you that have read my previous blogs, you have already been introduced to Pixie Stardust. Pixie was a special little creature that was discarded due to her condition. Due to the incredible love and dedication of a good friend, Carolyn Paxton, she was able to walk and play with other dogs and people.

Pixie Stardust recently passed away, but what a wonderful short life she lived. Here are a couple of new videos that I know will bring a smile and probably a few tears.


Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Guest Post: Pixie the Chihuahua Mix - a remarkable story of love and dedication
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

Other posts by Dr Riggs

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.

Call to action: Dr Riggs is participating in Pelotonia, raising money for cancer research. In fact, in its first four rides, Pelotonia has attracted over 11,100 riders and raised over $42 million for cancer research. Check out Dr Riggs' profile page where you can learn about and support his efforts. Thank you!


May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance

IMG_3189 rotatedWe are having fun with Brutus in the office today. He's an enthusiastic black lab who loves to hang out with Lindsey on the phones. He also happens to have only one eye but that doesn't seem to bother him one bit.

And so we start the theme for this month - differently-abled pets. Pets such as those who are blind or have limited-sight, those with fewer than 4 limbs, those who wobble to get around. And of course, those that can opera sing too!

Do you have a differently-abled dog or cat you'd like to share with us? Email me (Laura) photos, stories or just post a few words in the comments and we can share our love for these pets.

Related Posts:
May is All About Differently-Abled Pets at Embrace Pet Insurance
Guest Post: differently-abled dogs and people
Podcast: Dr Patrick Mahaney on Differently-Abled Pets
Life with Differently-Abled Dogs

Claim example: German Shepherd Dog first wellness visit

If you ever wondered how expensive a puppy can be, here's a sample for a puppy's first visit that cost over $400. And it's not even from NY City; it's from Wrightsville PA.

This Wellness Rewards claim is for Turbo, a German Shepherd Dog puppy with several more visits to come. Now that's worth having an Embrace Wellness Rewards policy for.

Description Billed Amount
Puppy Series Full Bundle $349.35
Examination -Preventive Care $45.50
Fecal Wellness $29.85
Initial Puppy/Kitten Deworming $10.00
DHLP Vaccination $20.50
Initial Puppy Heartworm Dose $12.00
Pre Op Screen Panel $58.70
Vectra Puppy Pack Dose $0.00
Discount -$117.80
Total $408.10

I wonder how many people would get a dog if they saw this bill first. Was your first vet bill an unwelcome surprise?


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