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Adopting A Dog With Special Needs

Dogs are natural optimists and always themselves. They don’t pretend to be something or someone other than who they are – dogs.

While we celebrate this dog-ness in our own dogs, we often misinterpret the same authenticity as sad in dogs with special needs. Whether blind, deaf or living with impaired mobility, dogs with special needs share the same enthusiasm and zest for life as other dogs. They don’t know (or care) that they are different; they just want to do normal dog things like play, snuggle and spend time with friends they love. Dogs are dogs and don’t overthink things or get caught-up in ‘what ifs’. To quote kindergarten teachers everywhere, they get what they get and they don’t get upset.

Adopting a dog with special needs

Rescuing A Dog With Special Needs

Sir Enzo Cavatappi aka “Tappi” is a 12-week-old Cavalier puppy full of sparkle and wonder with ears and eyes as big as his heart. Like all puppies, he’s forever on the move and loves wiggling, playing with his foster brother and watching cartoons (see video below for head tilt cuteness).

Tappi’s breeder surrendered him for euthanasia because he wasn’t using his back legs. The consulting veterinarian discovered that Tappi has a congenital abnormality of the thoracic vertebrae at T-6 – T-8 or in simple terms, a malformation of several vertebrae in his spine. Tappi has some mobility in his hind legs but will need ongoing, consistent canine rehabilitation to build his strength. Earlier this week, he underwent an MRI and CT scan that revealed he has severe compression of his spinal cord around T7. After consulting with many specialists, his rescue and care team decided to focus on continued rehabilitation and quality of life rather than putting him through surgery.

Tappi currently lives in a foster home with another partially paralyzed dog – you may remember Josh, LaCroix’s foster brother. Though he is not yet ready for adoption, he will eventually need a family willing and able to provide continued rehabilitation, including therapeutic exercises, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. Tappi will also need ongoing help expressing his bladder and regular, consistent grooming.

Bialy’s Wellness Foundation  (BWF) and rescue organization Be Fido’s Friend are partnering to help Tappi get the care, treatment, and home he deserves. Founded in 2014, BWF provides families with special needs pets with the equipment, medical care, rehabilitative therapy, training, support, and resources to optimize quality of life and keep these beauties in loving homes and out of shelters. The organization was inspired and named after Bialy, a severely abused stray puppy rescued just before Christmas. Bialy was only two months old when she was found with a wound on her neck and a fractured T11 vertebra. She received extensive therapy for her injuries and worked with behaviorists and trainers to ease her anxiety from early trauma. Although Bialy passed away in 2014, her spirit continues to inspire the work and mission of BWF.

Although Tappi is not yet available for adoption, he is already attracting tons of attention. Cavaliers are incredibly popular and not usually found in shelters. “It’s wonderful but also important to remember that there are SO MANY dogs in need,” says Erin Kowalski, BWF’s founder.

Erin encourages potential adopters to see the big picture and not get too focused on one dog. She hopes Tappi will inspire others to consider adopting a dog with special needs with just as much cuteness!

Bialy's Wellness Foundation changing the perception of dogs with special needs and impaired mobility

Changing the perception of dogs with special needs

Erin says that she often gets upsetting comments when walking Josh and Tappi. “Oh, poor dog. That’s so sad. What’s happened him?”

While these folks probably mean well, their questions imply there’s something wrong with or negative about these dogs. One of BWF’s 2019 goals is to change the conversation around and perception of dogs with mobility impairment. Perception changes everything – when you look at something differently, more openly, things change! Living things whether trees, people, or dogs are imperfect and that’s what makes them so extraordinary. Imperfect doesn’t mean broken, unadoptable or tragic, it means round, dense, unique, beautiful, and complex.

Tappi and Josh are smart, friendly, happy-go-lucky dogs with a great quality of life. There’s nothing sad or broken about them. They are just dogs doing normal dog things but in their own super amazing way. Not convinced? Watch the video and see them in action for yourself.

Want to help dogs with special needs and impaired mobility? Please share Tappi’s story AND consider making a donation to Bialy’s Wellness Foundation. Your donation to BWF will help cover ongoing supportive care, equipment, and therapy for dogs and other pets with special needs.

Bonus points: Bialy’s Wellness Foundation also raises funds through an e-commerce store where they sell some of the most adorable merchandise around much of which features Josh!

12 week old Cavalier puppy with special needs adopted

UPDATE 3/3/19 : Tappi Has Been Adopted!

Changing the perception of dogs with special needs and impaired mobility

Tappi is part of The Specials, an award-winning blog series focusing on special needs pet adoption. Senior pets, those with chronic medical issues, behavioral or temperament concerns as well as overlooked or misunderstood breeds like Pits and black cats. If not for the courage and compassion of their adopters, many of these animals might have been euthanized in shelters or died alone and hungry on the streets. You can read more special needs adoption posts here



  1. January 11, 2019 / 9:49 am

    we wish Tappi all the best and we send a big hug to people who can give a pet with special needs a home and who give them a good life…

  2. January 11, 2019 / 10:55 am

    A terrific post, shining a light on special needs dogs. Tappi is just too adorable!

  3. January 11, 2019 / 11:03 am

    They need us the most. I’m in.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ♥

  4. January 11, 2019 / 11:43 am

    We always see the emphasis on “special” instead of the needs. A special human sees that too and the love makes it all wonderful. Such a cutie woofie.

  5. January 11, 2019 / 12:11 pm

    Hari OM
    Oh look at those two darlings revelling in Christmas cheer;
    they warmed my heart and brought to eye a tear.
    There is no Love like the the love they get,
    wiping away all the rotten fear.
    Bravo to the adopters, the carers with heart
    and thank you, Ruby and mum, for playing your part!!!
    Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  6. January 11, 2019 / 1:01 pm

    Oh my gosh, he is so cute! He is so lucky to be in a loving foster home getting the care he needs. It looks like he doesn’t feel sorry for himself and that he’s enjoying life. What a good boy!

  7. January 11, 2019 / 2:30 pm

    waves two ewe tappi N josh from de land oh trout….veree nice ta meet ewe….we N joyed yur movveez ….. N yur Christmas toyz be AWESUM !!! all de best two ewe both in 2019 !! ☺☺♥♥

    • January 11, 2019 / 2:34 pm

      ooopz…R furst spellin errorz oh de new yeer……thatz spozed ta bee moo veez !! ♥♥

  8. January 11, 2019 / 2:50 pm

    💙💙💙 this story and the information about BWF!! They created an organization like I’ve dreamed about doing!! I’ll be heading over to start a monthly donation ASAP!! Thanks girl!

  9. January 11, 2019 / 4:54 pm

    Dogs like Tappi can teach everyone that a disabled dog or person are just as normal and live healthy lives like everyone else. Good luck Tappi in finding a forever home

  10. Tonya Wilhelm
    January 11, 2019 / 5:04 pm

    Sweet baby. I too have a cavalier with special needs. He has Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia leading him to mobility issues as well. He now is 9 and although his body has limits, his mind is full-force. Rehab,acupuncture, chiropractic care, regular strength training, food therapy and herbs provide him with a pretty full life. I hope this little guy finds a great forever home.

  11. January 11, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    As you know, years ago, dogs like this never had a chance at the life they deserve. How wonderful that there are now people, organizations, and treatment that allows these most special of pups find their way to someone that will love and cherish them. You are right, these dogs live their lives, never feeling sorry for themselves and enjoying and loving life. There is so much we can learn from that.

    Thank-you for sharing this story. I know because of it, and people like you that truly care and make a difference.

  12. January 11, 2019 / 6:58 pm

    We’ve raised special needs kittens, and adopted out several through the shelter. Fact is, animals don’t know they have special needs, they are just as precious as can be.

  13. January 11, 2019 / 6:59 pm

    It’s true! The first thing we always notice are their disabilities – but they are none the wiser! Such a great lesson for us humans.

  14. Chelle
    January 11, 2019 / 7:41 pm

    Tappi is just too cute! I’ve always had such a soft spot for special needs pets. I’ve adopted special needs rabbits in the past, but never dogs. I hope to be able to make a special needs or hospice dog a part of my pack someday. Unfortunately, where we live currently we’re at our max with two dogs.

  15. January 11, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    Tappi is so sweet. We sure hope enough funds are made available to help him get stronger and we will give a little to help out. All the best to him and all the other special needs pups needing help.

    Woos – Lightning, Misty, and Timber

  16. January 12, 2019 / 1:53 am

    We hope Tappi finds his special human and a loving forever home. Purrs

  17. January 12, 2019 / 7:51 am

    Beautiful post! I just discovered “The Specials” series and I know what I will be doing later today when the afternoon rain showers arrive. You’ve inspired me!

  18. January 12, 2019 / 8:01 am

    Tapp’s an adorable puppy. I’m glad he’s getting the help he needs.

  19. January 12, 2019 / 8:28 am

    God bless these fosters and these precious happy souls…what wonderful attitudes the pups have.
    thank you for writing this Kristin as always you have such talent for writing especially about Rescues…they are your heart and soul I know
    Hugs Cecilia

  20. January 12, 2019 / 9:18 am

    What a wonderful post spotlighting these special pups.

  21. January 12, 2019 / 10:37 am

    Tappi is absolutely adorable! What a great lesson this is! Thank you for helping spread awareness about adopting dogs with special needs. Wishing Tappi the best!

  22. January 12, 2019 / 10:43 am

    Tappi and Josh really are loving their lives and don’t realize that they’re disabled. Loved the Christmas video! Bless the peeps who take such great care of these special babies♥

  23. January 12, 2019 / 10:51 am

    Tappi and Josh are positively adorable!! I love them both. What a great article, thanks for shining a light on specially-abled dogs. They have so much love and joy to give. Sharing.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  24. Kamira Gayle
    January 12, 2019 / 11:39 am

    I will definitely be sharing your post. I couldn’t agree more. So many overlook dogs and cats with disabilities and write them off with euthanasia which isn’t right. When I volunteered at my local shelter one of the cats brought in would have died had it not been for a caring employee to take them in and rehabilitate them back to health. Some folks don’t know what they are missing and miss out on the value of taking in a pet with special needs. They want quality of life and love like anyone else.

  25. January 12, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    Good luck Tappi. I love cavaliers. I hope he does well. I’ve had a couple special needs cats. You just have to know what you can handle financially and make the commitment.

  26. Paroma Chakravarty
    January 12, 2019 / 6:29 pm

    Special needs pets need a loving home too so that they can reach their full potential. Thank you for sharing Tappi’s story; it is so heartening to see so many caring people working together to give this puppy a chance for a good life.

  27. 15andmeowing
    January 12, 2019 / 8:36 pm

    Tappi is a cutie. I am sure she will have a wonderful life.

  28. Idaho PugRanch
    January 12, 2019 / 9:59 pm

    What a couple of sweet babies! Thank goodness there are people out there willing to help them live a wonderful life
    Hazel & Mabel

  29. Marjorie Dawson
    January 13, 2019 / 3:55 pm

    Tappi is amazing. If we all put a pet with special needs first instead of ourselves, the world would be fuller of better and happier place. Not everyone is perfect, and we need to stop beating ourselves up about pets and people being perfect.

  30. January 13, 2019 / 3:59 pm

    OMD they are both such sweet babies!!

    Matt, Matilda & Mama

  31. January 13, 2019 / 5:59 pm

    God bless the heart of anybody who adopts these babies. So sweet, so deserving babies.

  32. January 13, 2019 / 6:05 pm

    Tappi is so adorable! We hope that sweet face inspires many people to believe in dogs like him. How wonderful that they are now given a chance at full, rich lives. ♥

  33. January 13, 2019 / 7:23 pm

    Tappi is very cute! I hope that he inspires lots of people to adopt a pet with special needs.

  34. meowmeowmans
    January 13, 2019 / 9:55 pm

    Tappi’s so cute! We love special hearted people who adopt special animals like Tappi. XO

  35. January 14, 2019 / 5:06 pm

    Tappi is adorable – and looks so very happy! We must celebrate the joy that comes with every single dog – each is so wonderful! I hope Tappi had a fabulous holiday season – and gets to enjoy many more!

  36. FiveSibesMom
    January 15, 2019 / 8:42 am

    Tappi so, so cute! And could he be any more adorable in that video watching cartoons?! I love this post…as a hu-mom to an epileptic for 7 years, now a deaf Husky, and two who blew out their CCLs and required rehabilitation, I am pro-special needs dogs! They are amazing – and as you stated, they have such an incredible zest for life. I learned so much from my boy Gibson, the Epidog, and now as my Huskies age and see them overcome challenges and adapt, they inspire me. Tappi looks so happy! I am sure that when Tappi is ready for adoption, he will find the perfect loving home immediately! I Pinned this to share!

  37. Sandy Weinstein
    March 15, 2019 / 4:09 pm

    Tappi is adorable. i really honor people that take these special needs dogs into their home. i know how hard it can be. my oldest became a special needs several yrs before she passed away.

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