Monday, August 20, 2012


 Weekly column by Mia Mattsson writing for the Magazine NARA.  

Do handicapped dogs have “enough” quality of life to spend time and effort on them?  

What do you think?

 "When they first saw the photograph of Angelo, our first blind dog at the hospice, it seemed the unanimous question was: "Blind dogs, do they really have a quality life?"
The question came from some acquaintances’ to me, and with a small smile on my lips I asked them if they thought the same about visually impaired people.  Snorts’ were all I got for a response.

Angelo, this first blind dog at the hospice down in Southern Italy, was like a big bear with a great big heart. Previously had Angelo lived together with a homeless man and his four other street dogs in freedom and they were very happy. The people recognized him and his dogs on the streets. It was a safe image people, people were comfortable with it, having seen it for the last ten years.

But one day the man became very ill and “his” street dogs were threatened by a life in captivity. There was a great risk that they would end up in a municipal shelter. We who knew the situation feared that outcome, because no one ever came out of there again, and all dogs are kept in cramped cages.

Our hospice could receive two of the stray dogs. Angelo, who was fifteen years old and Tigri who worked as his "eyes". She was a fourteen-year-old brindle female.

I felt a great humility towards both of them when they entered our hospice. Tigri followed Angelo and with her nose, she pressed lightly against his hind legs in which ever direction he should go. To the right, a light pressure with the nose to the right hind leg and Angelo went in that direction. Tigri escorted him around the house and out into the small garden, “showing him around”.  After a few days he found himself at home. Angelo was very pleased and found his own safe sleeping place on a big mattress. He loved the peace.

Tigri eventually seemed to fall in love with a young crippled dog named Dicky. We joked that when she made sure that Angelo was “safe” in his new environment, she divorced him and moved out on the terrace with Dicky.

To have a visually impaired dog was not difficult, but we had explain to all the volunteers that they could not change anything. Not even the water dish could be moved an inch. The sighted dogs were initially frustrated with Angelo who went straight into them when they did not move. But with patience and our corrections to the sighted dogs, they accepted Angelo quickly.

Here in Germany and northern Italy there are several families who adopt handicapped dogs and cats. When I worked with the foundation down in Sarajveo in 1999, I came in contact with my first handicapped dog. Zeljko had slept/lived with both legs broken under decks and loading docks for days.

He was taken into custody and was then adopted by a family in Germany. It was the first time I saw a dog have a wheelchair. I remember we were all impressed that someone adopted a lame dog in a wheelchair. But Zeljko was a happy guy who skidded with the wheelchair out from the driveway when he played with his two four-legged canine friends.

The most important thing with adoptions of disabled dogs is that one must think with both intellect and heart, because just as with people with disabilities, they are in need of a little extra care and more knowledge and understanding. But if you think that disabled people do not have a quality of life, you have to ask yourself if this is an assumption or a fact?

"Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes (or paws)" is a saying I often try to think about before I judge a situation, or an individual with my own opinion.

That’s Amore"

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