When I adopted Maxwell I never thought of the future and what hurdles or endeavors we may be facing – all that I knew in that moment was that his previous “people” were giving up on him, washing their hands of him because he was “different” and being someone who just lost her pug about a month prior I felt it was a sign from the universe — that Maxwell came into MY clinic (of all of the other clinics) and it was a “new client”– I had never seen Maxwell or this person prior to that fateful day I took him home.
I remember calling my husband and starting the call with “I MAY have done a “thing”…but remember that I love you!” I could SENSE his eyeroll over the telephone followed up with “what did you adopt now!?” (He knows me FAR too well!).
My husband told me we could “foster him” (his defense mechanism for all the handipets we have adopted!) but he and I both knew that Maxwell was coming home to stay permanently. Thus kicked off our journey of Maxwell Seamus!
Everyone see’s the “romanticized” version of adopting a specially-abled animal — the cuddling, the “adorable hurdles” and their cute, unique little quirks that make them … “them”! Friends, I am here to tell you that this is NOT one of those stories (but it is still cute and inspiring!) and the first few days being Maxwell’s mama was turbulent to put it mildly — despite the rough ride I was not about to give up and we were going to figure this out!
Early on the veterinarians (and myself) were holding out hope that Maxwell may be able to walk despite his adversities — we immediately started physical therapy, hydro-therapy, acupuncture and various obstacle courses to help give Maxwell strength & stamina. As time carried on it was evident that Maxwell would not be able to stand upright on his own or be able to use his back legs — even then we were not discouraged and continued to work on his progress.
Every morning Maxwell and I start the day the same — I creep into his room and begin to lightly talk to him helping him greet the day! Maxwell gives a big stretch or two, a yawn and looks up with those big ol’ brown eyes full of hope and wonder. I take Maxwell outside to use the “facilities” (which he needs assistance in) and then I pack his “diaper bag”, wheelchair, harness, toys, baby wipes and grip booties (to help keep him upright when he’s in his wheelchair) in the car before placing Maxwell in his car seat (safety first!)
Maxwell goes to work with me daily simply because he needs his bladder expressed manually several times a day and needs a tad bit more supervision then his handicat brothers require – luckily we work at a veterinary hospital that embraces specially – abled animals (and loves Maxwell!) so this is not an issue.
In addition to Maxwell needing his bladder expressed several times a day he also requires daily physical/hydro therapy to help his muscles not waste away (despite not being able to use his legs we want to always ensure Maxwell is healthy, big & strong!) as well as short bursts of time where he’s in his wheelchair (that was so graciously donated to Maxwell by a kind soul) to help his upper body strength and overall stamina.
Maxwell enjoys lounging on the couch with me, being surrounded by his “brothers” (aka the handicats) and playing with ALL of his toys (his favorite is his stuffed “lamby” and his rope toys) and he just overall enjoys being in the company of myself and his dad! Maxwell does not realize, nor is he phased by the fact that he may be a “little” different than the other kids (though I am starting to get concerned he believes he is a cat!) and lives a happy, spoiled life.
Every night before bedtime Maxwell goes outside to use the facilities one final time before sleep and then he is placed in his “bed” (a portable crib that was also graciously donated to us) surrounded by all of his toys and a little “bedtime snack” — Maxwell’s favorite is a couple of plain cheerios to munch on before falling asleep.
Does it sound like a lot? Absolutely not. Are there some days that it feels like it is the most overwhelming thing in the world? Sure! Some days I worry that I will not be able to give Maxwell all that he needs in life but then I am reminded that those short comings & insecurities only come from my own anxiety… Maxwell already has ALL that he needs — a family that loves him and is patient with him.
Are there some days that Maxwell blesses friends and family with a “golden shower”? Hell yes there is! And in that instance all you can do is laugh, politely apologize and remind them that Maxwell has no idea he is urinating (and definitely cannot “steer” his urine stream in any particular direction – trust me, I struggle daily with this!), has Maxwell pooped on a few friends of mine (and a few that weren’t friends) – YES. He has gifted a “code brown” or two in his short little life thus far? Of course. But everything he does — gross and otherwise — you learn to take with stride and a few laughs here and there.
Everyday Maxwell amazes me in his progress. Though he still requires “grip” booties to help keep his front feet upright when he is in his wheels and sometimes he pouts about having to not simply be a “lazy pug” and has to put in actual work with his wheels he is improving daily.
The best advice I can continue to give people is NEVER be turned off or discouraged by a special needs animal, understand that when you take them into your home there will be an adjustment period (for both you and the animal) and remember a time when you needed someone to NOT give up on you? Special needs animals everywhere are looking for someone to NOT give up on them — be that person that changes their entire life.
We have received lots of messages pertaining to cerebellar hypoplasia pets & pet insurance and unfortunately we have not been able to find a pet insurance that would cover “CH” pets! Below is listed a chart courtesy of DVM360 that shows the top pet insurance companies and breaks down the “dirty details” of each insurance company.
Upon speaking to one of the pet insurance companies “Figo Pet Insurance” I kindly asked them to specify their “pre-existing policy” and how this pertains to cerebellar hypoplasia pets.
“Cerebellar hypoplasia will be considered a pre-existing condition even though the pet is born with it unless it happens to not show signs or symptoms until after the pet has a policy. The earliest you can insure a pet is 8 weeks old and we have a 14 day waiting period for illnesses. In order for the cerebellar hypoplasia to be covered, there would need to not be any signs or symptoms until the pet was at least 10 weeks old…”
I then asked Figo Pet insurance about “accidents or illnesses” [Figo Pet Insurance states that you can still get pet insurance for a CH pet BUT any illnesses/injuries that could be related to CH would NOT be covered by pet insurance] so I asked them to clarify that.
“We base all coverage off of the medical records your veterinarian provides. With CH the coverage will heavily depend on if your veterinarian feels the accident or illness is related to the CH. For example, if your vet states “CH caused pet to fall over and break tooth” it would be considered due to a pre-existing condition. If your vet states that there is a broken tooth and does not consider it due to the pre-existing CH then it could be covered
We could also offer coverage for other accidents or illnesses that your vet deems unrelated to the CH like urinary issues, allergies, diabetes, or cancers…”
So the jury is still out on pet insurance! In our opinion we feel that the pet insurance companies will try to connect any injury/illness to CH (thus the pet insurance not covering the bill for!) so personally we feel it is not worth having your CH baby on pet insurance but always stress to do your homework! If you are looking into insurance for your CH pet contact them directly and ask questions pertaining strictly to cerebellar hypoplasia!
We recommend looking into Care Credit (www.carecredit.com) which is sort of like a credit card that you can only use at the veterinarian’s office (or you can personally use it also! I recently used my care credit at the dentist office!)
This cat wheelchair is for all the kitty cats out there in the world who are missing one or both of their hind legs, or for those with crippled or paralyzed hind legs. Our goal was to build a wheelchair, for disabled cats, that is just as effective, and more affordable than other wheelchairs on the market. Many cat wheelchairs on the market can cost upwards of one hundred dollars. Ours cost us around twenty dollars.
- PVC Pipe
- Cat Harness
- PVC Cutter
- PVC Cement
- Bolt and washers
- Drill Foam
- Sweatshirt String
- First cut two 15 inch pieces of PVC pipe.
- Cut PVC pipes to a height of 9 inch (including the 90 degree t-junction)
- Connect your pipes to form a U shape
- Cut the height pieces to 1.5 inch length and add the new connector pieces for the cat to rest it’s back legs.
- Cut axle shield 6 inches
- Insert bolts in the hole of the axle and apply necessary amount of washers to those bolts
- Drill a small hole into the sides -1/2 in back from front- and dremel the hole to the desired width
- Connect axle shield and t-junctions to the U shaped pieces from earlier
- Take wheels and screw them onto the bolts
- Place cat in harness
- Route sweatshirt string through cat harness and run through holes drilled in step 7
- Have fun with your little critter and his new found freedom
September 2017 — In foster home
August 2017 — First Rescued
Bart– February 2018
Bart was abandoned at a local veterinary clinic after a good samaritan rescued him and his sibling (the calico pictured above) who both had horribly brutal upper respiratory infections (eyes caked shut, severe nasal discharge, congestion) — Bart’s sister slowly improved but Bart did not. Bart came to the clinic with a broken back leg (the veterinarian suspected something had tried to catch Bart as prey), a hernia and his left eye had ruptured most likely due to having feline herpesvirus.
Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an infectious disease caused by the feline herpesvirus type-1. Typical symptoms of FVR involve the nose, throat and eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, inflammation of the tissues that line the eyelids and surround the eyes, discharge from the eyes and nose. The herpesvirus can also cause keratitis, or swelling/infection of the cornea that leads to corneal ulcers. Rare cases include the rupture of the cornea, which unfortunately happened due to the herpesvirus in Bart’s situation.
Bart came to our home and was absolutely terrified. He bordered on the “feral” in which he spent the first month at our home cowering under our bed refusing to come out and hated being handled and held by anyone. It was assumed that Bart would be a “cellar dweller” but at least he had a roof over his head and food in his tiny belly.
By December, 2017 Bart had his left eye (what was left of it) removed, his hernia repaired as well as neutered. Upon waking up from surgery he purred for the very first time– a milestone that made his new parents gush with pride (and possibly a few happy tears!). By spring of 2017 Bart realized he needed to make up for lost time while he was sick as a baby and became an ornery, rambunctious kitten!
Bart still has vision issues (he suffered a corneal ulcer on his right eye as well, luckily it did not rupture and he has some limited vision in it) as well as a habitual “booger nose” and suffers from the occasional flare-ups caused by the herpesvirus but today is a happy, functioning, handsome man!
Bart would have sadly been overlooked in a shelter setting (or even more devastating– euthanized) because of his “special needs” coupled with the fact that he is a black cat to which statistically sit in shelters longer than any other type of cat. By giving this handsome fella a chance the world was able to see what a spunky, resilient kitten he is! Despite almost becoming someone’s snack while in the wild he has made a complete turn around and rules the house! Bart is a typical cat who cuddles, plays and gets into mischief!
Do you have a cat that suffers from herpesvirus? How do you accommodate your home for your special baby?
As a 30 something year old married woman I often get the age-old irritating question that I am sure plague many of you,
“so, when are you having kids of your own?”
Which is cool and all for those that want them but for me? I enjoy not pushing something the size of a large wet St. Bernard through something the size of a keyhole only to have my tatas drag on the ground every morning (kudos to all y’all mamas out there though – y’all are such MVP’s!!!)
But the statement that people should be echoing (because let’s be honest, I use that as a vehicle to talk about the adorable land of misfits) is, “you are a mom, just not in the traditional sense” which makes sense– we’re the land of misfits’ dudes!
Nothing (and I mean absolutely nothing) we will say or do will ever be considered or filed away as “traditional”.
But a caregiver is a caregiver, right?
Whether you are a “mom” to a child, an animal that you have forged a deep emotional bond with, a friend, the elderly – anyone that you provide loving, compassionate care for, you are a “parent” in one form or another.
The next time someone approaches you in that sad sympathetic look with the tone of dismay over how they could never (cue the pearl clutching here) have an animal that is “special needs” and they simply do not know how we do it every day! Ask them why they feel that way and explain maybe you feel the same way about their situations. Do we not worry about our handicapable pets just like new parents fussing over their new baby?
Regardless of the situation, anytime you dedicate your heart to something as pure as an animal (handicapable or otherwise) or a baby or loved one, you are assuming the care, love, and responsibility for that helpless, defenseless being.
So no, I am not a mother in the traditional sense but what fun would that be in the land of misfits where we are all just a little out of the ordinary here?
Yet just like many of you I can say I am a nurturing caregiver (and a “parent”) here’s why:
- I have and will continue to handle more amounts of fecal matter than I had originally anticipated as a child (in case you were wondering, child me had that number at a hard zero – boy was I wrong). I wipe more ass than toilet paper at this point and my regular purchase of non-scented baby wipes has the local store concerned and puzzled.
- Everyone gets put to bed at nighttime – Maxwell is usually first to go: I help him use the facilities, we give him a little nighttime snack and then we brush his teeth, turn on his white noise machine (yes we play it and he loves the outdoor noises) and tuck him in his crib (a real baby crib) with his lamby he has had since a baby and has seen far better days. Followed by Bifford and Bart who also both get a little snack of canned food before bedtime before putting them to put with their brother Max in the “boys’ room” (or our spare room that has been commandeered by the handipets).
- On any given night you can hear crying, throwing up, fighting and more – just like kids can do (and yes there have been many a sleepless night up with a restless, crying or sick handipet).
So where is the disconnect?
A mother who cares for a newborn up to their elbows in diapers and crying is a “mom”, but I am up to my eyeballs in poop many nights up all night crying because I was tired and frustrated, but felt guilty for being so upset because just like babies the handipets do not understand.
One of the major differences is that with “traditional” mothers eventually their children grow up, grow independent and off on their own but as we all know (especially here at the adorable land of misfits) is that our babies never “grow up”, Maxwell will forever need assistance using the bathroom, he will always need me to wipe his booty, help in and out of his wheelchair and require constant attention.
Bifford will still cry when he falls (he is a bottle kitten after all) and need the “danglers” clipped from his long hair, Bart will still need me to help him wipe the half inch long dangling boogers from his nose.
They are each adorable, affectionate, disgusting in their own individual ways and I often describe them to people as my “adorable dumpster fires” at home but I would not change a thing because the things that make them adorable and gross are the qualities that make them who they are, make them unique and keeps our lives here interesting and entertaining.
Because the “misfits” are the patchwork to a vibrant and beautiful life, right? Or how about the age old saying “variety is the spice of life”, that definitely applies to being a handicapable pet parent.
Regardless of if were parents to kids, animals (handicapable or otherwise!), friends or the elderly we are all “moms” and “dads” in our own uniquely misfit way and its worthy of commendation and respect!!