Benjamin's Battle: Embracing Differently-abled Pets and People

Benjamin

Embrace Pet Insurance and The Water Bowl celebrated Differently-abled Pets in May 2013. Our writers covered topics from dealing with mobility challenges, managing incontinence and transitioning a senior pet who may be going deaf to championing differently-abled pet like Rosie, a Chihuahua with assorted issues due to bad breeding, and Maty, a three-legged disc dog.

I was blown away when we started receiving emails and Facebook posts from policy holders and pet owners sharing their differently-abled pet's story or thanking us for shedding a positive light on these incredible pets. One story stood out as a true example of the difference that special-needs pets can make in the world. Benjamin, a Schnauzer/Beagle mix, had his share of issues, but that didn't stop him from bringing hope to others and educating humans on the value of differently-abled pets and people.

Below, Benjamin's pet parent, Raegan H. of Lavale, MD, shares his story:

"My 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.

"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 at the Special Olympics"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 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 more resourceful person than I ever dreamed and I have to say, that kind of self-awareness is a priceless gift.

"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, and attitude... he’s only lacking the wheels."

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