Special-Needs Pups Find the Perfect Home
by Carie Broecker
Pamela and Patrick Wade had been looking for a dog for over a year. Patrick had grown up with Northern Breed-type dogs like Huskies and Eskimos, and Pamela had worked for a Wolf-hybrid rescue group. They were looking for the qualities in those breeds such as intelligence, loyalty, and the need for an active lifestyle. They also wanted a dog who would not harass their kitties; one with a sound temperament who could go everywhere with them, including running on the beach, hiking, and traveling a lot.
One day, Pamela was checking the Animal Friends Rescue Project (AFRP) website and she saw two, three-month-old Australian Shepherd-mix puppies up for adoption: Scout and Shasta. She showed the photo to Patrick, and right away he wanted to meet them and knew they could not be separated.
When the foster mom arrived at their house with the pups, Shasta came bounding out of the car, across the lawn, and jumped into Pamela’s arms. And then they met Scout, who was every bit as loving and joyful as Shasta.
When Pamela and Patrick saw the pups together, it confirmed what they were already thinking—they could not separate them.
Here is the twist: Scout was born blind and Shasta only had one eye with sight, but that didn’t phase the Wades. How that squared with the active, go-with-us-everywhere dog they were looking for was an unknown. They were willing to make the commitment to these pups, whatever it took.
The pups romped around the backyard having the time of their lives and then came in the house, lay down, and took a nap. They were very content, and they were home.
Neither Pamela nor Patrick had ever had a blind dog, but they vowed to be their vision. They searched the internet for tips on raising and living with a blind dog: walk the dog around on leash in a new environment so he can map out the set up, never move the furniture once the dog has the lay of the land, and trust that your dog is less bothered by his blindness than you might be.
Pamela and Patrick say that Scout is the one who really trained them. He is so smart and very effective in communicating his needs, and having Shasta around gives Scout an extra boost of confidence. The two are so bonded and communicate in ways beyond human comprehension.
One of the most amazing things to witness is Scout and Shasta at the beach. They run on the beach together regularly. They wrestle, they greet people, and they love to swim in the ocean. Shasta loves to jump the waves and Scout prefers to ride them in.
Scout is particularly adept at following sound, and they are both very well trained, with a strong recall. If Scout gets too far from the rest of the pack, he stops, tilts his head until he hears them and then he makes a bee line straight back and sits for his treat or praise. He sits directly in front of them. People often question whether he is really blind. It is so hard to believe when you see him maneuver, but Pamela confirms over and over again that “Yes, he is definitely blind. He has no eyes at all.”
Pamela is Scout’s guide when they are walking. She constantly gives him verbal cues to help him navigate: step down, forward, step up, right, left. And he follows her direction smoothly.
The dogs are everything the Wades had been looking for and more. They are very social, they go into stores with them and out to eat (LouLou’s on Fisherman’s Wharf is a favorite spot), and they love meeting new people and dogs.
What is the toughest part of having a blind dog? When visitors come to the house and leave chairs or bags or other obstacles in the way. Scout knows the house so well and trusts everything to be in its proper place. He races through the house and if anything is out of place, he runs right into it or trips over it.
The Wades are amazed by their dogs’ ability to overcome anything challenging, and they say having them in their lives is very rewarding. Patrick says, “A special-needs dog will teach you more than you will ever teach them. If you are thinking about adopting a special-needs animal, go into it with an open mind and an open heart; make a lifetime commitment and you can’t go wrong.”