National Disabled Pets Day, created by animal advocate Colleen Paige, takes place on May 3 and is dedicated to recognizing the unique qualities and contributions of disabled therapy animals. These incredible pets often demonstrate resilience, adaptability, and determination, inspiring and comforting those they serve. In this blog post, we’ll explore the important work that disabled therapy dogs are doing and celebrate their impact on the lives of others.
Understanding Identity-First vs Person-First Language
When discussing disabled therapy animals, it’s essential to be mindful of the language we use. Many people with disabilities prefer identity-first language (e.g., “disabled dog”). This means they see their disability as an important part of who they are. Others prefer person-first language (e.g., “dog with a disability”). It’s important to ask someone’s preference and adjust your language accordingly. By being respectful and inclusive in our language, we can help create a more supportive and understanding environment for all.
Note: I positioned this article in identity-first language because I’ve learned from that the majority of Autistic adults as well as those in the disability movement say identity-first language is their preferred default. (source: play-spark.com)
The Unique Impact of Disabled Therapy Animals
These amazing animals often show strength, flexibility, and determination. They can inspire and comfort the people they help. They can teach us valuable lessons about overcoming hard times and accepting differences.
- A dog with a prosthetic leg inspiring amputees to live life to the fullest.
- A blind dog connecting with visually impaired people and showing adaptability.
- A deaf dog bonding with sign language users and promoting empathy.
- A dog in a wheelchair proving that strength overcomes physical challenges.
- A dog with a neurological issue encouraging acceptance of invisible disabilities.
Heartwarming Stories of Disabled Therapy Animals
Two well known examples of disabled therapy dogs are Smiley and ChiChi.
- Smiley, a blind Golden Retriever, brought joy and support to hospital patients, kids with autism, and nursing home residents. His story shows that love and friendship are more important than physical challenges, and he taught valuable lessons about resilience and adaptability.
- ChiChi, a Golden Retriever mix and quadruple amputee, cheered up people at hospitals, rehab centers, and places for veterans. Her amazing strength and loving nature inspired everyone she met, teaching them about perseverance and the power of love.
Disabled Dogs on Therapy Dog Talk Making an Impact
Therapy Dog Talk features several disabled dogs and their handlers who are making a difference in the lives of others:
- Cole in Episode 13: Cole’s deafness is his superpower as it helps him to focus in busy, loud environments. Chris says, “One of the biggest things we talk about with kids is overcoming adversities. They all find their own courage within him because of the adversity he’s faced.”
- Boone in Episode 32: Boone uses a wheelchair which can empower people to pet him as they know that he won’t jump up on them. Tanya says, “It has totally opened up different avenues for us. It’s interesting to see how kids relate to him in a different manner than the regular therapy dog.”
- Petey in Episode 59: Tripod Petey has the sweetest soul. Dena says, “My dog is probably loved more because of his disability than if he was just a regular four-legged dog because people see his courageous strength.”
Respecting and Understanding the Needs of Disabled Therapy Animals
To make sure therapy sessions go well, we need to think about the needs and special help disabled therapy animals might need. Handlers should remember their therapy dog’s limits and work with the places they visit to keep the dog comfortable and safe. This way, everyone can have a good and rewarding experience.
Ways to Celebrate National Disabled Pets Day
- Adopt or foster a disabled animal, if you are able.
- Donate to groups that help disabled animals, like Joey’s P.A.W., featured in Episode 32 of Therapy Dog Talk.
- Share stories of disabled pets in your life to spread positivity, love, and awareness of their unique qualities.
Disabled pets deserve love, need care, and can teach us important lessons.
As we celebrate National Disabled Pets Day, let’s support disabled therapy animals in our communities and share our own stories or experiences with these special pets. Check out Therapy Dog Talk for more inspiring stories of disabled dogs making a difference in the lives of others.
Disabled therapy animals play a vital role in providing comfort, hope, and inspiration to those they serve. By being mindful of our language, understanding their unique needs, and celebrating their incredible impact, we can help create a more inclusive and compassionate world. Let’s continue to support and champion these amazing animals and the important work they do.