Barbara Sharnak for WebVet.com
When I walked into the Sean Casey Animal Rescue to adopt a cat, I zeroed in on a fuzzy eight-week old gray kitten with huge green alien eyes. When he marched into my cupped hand, nestled against my chest and squinted those saucers to sleep, I knew I'd found The One.Our references had already been called by the time I bothered looking around at anyone else. I was peering at three other little kittens cuddled in a ball when a shelter volunteer told me that each was missing one if not both eyes after they ruptured due to infection.
The other cats were older; the ones who were awake stared at me, aching for attention, while the excitement over my new, perfect, young bundle of joy began to fade. Why should I, an exceptionally capable cat mom, choose the one guy in here that's guaranteed to be adopted, while these others remain in desperate need of home?
I picked one up while they processed the original paperwork. He sunk his claws into my sweater, motor running as we touched heart-to-heart. "He's a sweetheart," the volunteer needlessly informed me. Then he sneezed in my face, spraying snot on my coat. "He's sick though."
The tabby had been suffering from an upper respiratory disorder and had a bum leg, an old injury that never fully healed. When I asked if he was available for adoption, I was told absolutely - along with four medications, two of which were to be administered twice daily.
It was easy to switch the paperwork, and within the hour, Franklin, as he's now called, was on his way to his forever home. I'd be surprised if the gray kitten even spent the night before someone else claimed him.
Although Franklin might not strictly be considered disabled, older animals and those with disabilities are often among the last to be adopted. Of the average 300 to 500 animals at a typical animal welfare organization, approximately 10 percent qualify as disabled.
"You cannot ask for a better human being than somebody who saves a dog or cat with a disability from being euthanized,'' says Joyce Darrell, who, along with her husband Michael Dickerson, started Pets with Disabilities in 2000 out of their Maryland home.
Since then (and despite the fact they both work full time - she owns an athletic shoe store and he's an elevator mechanic), they've adopted out hundreds of animals, many through their web site, which draws about 1,000 visitors daily. They've also traveled across the country to promote their mission: to provide a positive voice for dogs and cats with disabilities that desperately need homes.
"It's been difficult,'' she said, "but we're finally starting to find the small percentage of people we've been looking for to give these animals a chance.''Franklin: