A very special thank you to Nicole Clausen!!! Be sure to follow her weekly podcast by visiting — www.vetlogic.co/podcast
We want to thank Jan Windhorst & Sophisticated Woman magazine for this beautiful feature on Bifford and his “campaign”! Without amazing friends like them helping us spread the word on specially-abled animals NONE of this would be possible!! Be sure to check out their magazine at www.SophisticatedWoman.com
Hope for Special Needs Animals
WRITTEN BY: JAN WINDHORST
Bifford Finds Hope
Until Suzi Langer came along, 11-year-old Bifford, like other special needs animals, had a rough life. He was rejected by his mother as a kitten and adopted and surrendered numerous times. Suzi, a vet tech, took on the long-haired domestic cat when a local shelter reached out reporting that Bifford was being bullied by the other cats. “He has poor balance, but I had no idea what was wrong with him at the time. When I brought him to a wellness clinic for regular shots, I was shocked and angered that they offered to put him down as a courtesy. He was wobbly but certainly not ready to die.”
Now on a mission to help Bifford and other cats like him, Suzi learned that he has a neurological disorder called cerebellar hypoplasia or CH. “His underdeveloped brain affects his coordination, but he’s not in any pain. He doesn’t know he’s different and runs and plays like any other cat would. CH pets can have happy and healthy life spans. They can learn to adapt to their abilities and compensate over time.” Suzi is blazing a trail for changing attitudes about disabled cats and dogs. She wants to change the idea that the solution to CH is euthanasia. “The condition is just misunderstood, and we’re trying to remove the stigma from it. The severity of CH can vary, but putting them down is not the answer.”
Suzi also has an epileptic rat terrier with a bullet in his hip, a blind cat, and a pug with spina bifida and swimmer syndrome that affects his front legs. The compassionate caregiver says she’s working to train the pug and has a wheelchair on order, but that getting one is a long process.
Suzi is Inspired to Help Others
Aside from her love of animals, Suzi also has a very personal reason for changing attitudes about disability. Eleven years ago, at 22, Suzi developed epilepsy. “It was terrifying to suddenly have this condition. I had my first seizure in a college classroom. I now know what it’s like to live with that stigma, and the misunderstanding around my own health and abilities is phenomenal. I know I can do remarkable things, and even if they’re disabled, people and animals are all still worthy of love. So, just like me, with patience and work Bifford’s going to do awesome. If you have empathy and love to give, that’s half the battle.”
Based in Youngstown, Ohio, Suzi is in the process of establishing a non-profit to get the word out about fostering, adopting, volunteering and donating. “We work with organizations and agencies to offer information and resources related to care of special needs pets – especially those with CH. Our website, presidentbifford.com, has an interactive map with special-needs-friendly clinics and facilities. People who’ve been told to put down their cats with conditions like CH are desperate for a second opinion. Our resources allow them to get that.”
Now branching out to cover more states and a wider scope of special needs including wheelchairs for amputees and paralyzed animals, Suzi says the response has been encouraging. “We’ve had ten calls from all over the country this past week. We have resources in Louisiana but want to expand. Vets and professionals can sign up with us as CH friendly or to learn more so that they can become a needed resource. Our band of ‘specially-abled’ pet parents wants to keep learning and educating others.”
Suzi says that 10 years ago she knew nothing about special needs animals but that she can’t imagine her life without them now. “Please adopt and don’t just go for the cute ones. Pay attention to those that are frightened or need more patience. You might just find the love of your life. Bifford has taught me a lot about tenacity and resiliency. He’s helped me grow as a young woman since that first terrifying seizure. I’ve also learned not to baby him too much. We’re both survivors. With the right attitude, work and love we’ll be OK and make the world a little easier place for specially-abled people and pets to thrive.”
For more information about disabled or special needs animals and their care, or to register as a special-needs-friendly
veterinarian or clinic, visit presidentbifford.com.
A very special THANK YOU to Lola the Rescued Cat for interviewing Bifford on 05/03/2021 (Specially-Abled Pet Day)! Please be sure to “LIKE” Lola on Facebook and check her website out http://www.lolatherescuedcat.com
Hello, and Happy Monday! Did you know that today is Specially Abled Pets Day? This special day is celebrated every year on May 3 to educate the public about pets with disabilities. I am so excited to take this opportunity to introduce you all to one of our new friends, a pawesome guy with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, Bifford Langer!
Bifford is a spokescat for specially-abled cats and dedicates his blog to educating people about Cerebellar Hypoplasia and taking care of pets with special needs. He agreed to sit down with me for an interview so our readers can learn more about him and his cause. So let’s get into it.
Lola: Hi, Bifford! Thanks so much for letting me interview you for “Specially Abled Pets Day.” Before we get into the first question, I’d like to say you’re looking very handsome today.
Bifford: Hello, Lola! Thank you so much for granting me this interview with you, especially for Specially-Abled Pets Day! It is so sweet of you. I wanted to look absolutely dashing for this prestigious interview with the beautiful and infamous Lola!
Lola: Awww, thank you, Bifford. Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
Bifford: I was born in Chicago in October 2011 to a foster mother who specialized in rescuing pregnant cats from the harsh streets. I was one of four brothers, and we all had Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH). I was considered “moderate” and my brother Munchie was considered “severe.” We were transported to a cat rescue in Youngstown, Ohio where I endured several failed homes until I found my forever one with my mom and dad in May 2014! Since that fateful day, it has been tuna wishes and high living for this “presidential” candidate!
Lola: What do you think people need to know about CH?
Bifford: This is a particularly important question, Lola, which I get asked a lot. The thing people need to know most about CH cats is that we are not in any pain. CH is not contagious, does not get worse (or better, either), and we are very resilient and able to adapt to our abilities. Whenever I meet new voters, they often first look at me with a pang of sympathy as if I am suffering. But once they get to know me and see my flirtatious demeanor and zest for life they quickly see that those preconceived notions are just one of the many stigmas we are working to bust.
Lola: That’s such important information for people to know! So, tell me, how did you find your forever family?
Bifford: I actually had a rough journey finding to my forever family as I was returned to the shelter three different times. The very last time before I came to my forever mama, the “family” locked me in an empty hot tub because they wanted me to “die with dignity.” I was finally surrendered after a domestic abuse situation happened in their home. My current forever mama got a call saying that I was not doing well at the shelter. I was terrified, getting beat up all the time, and getting more depressed each day I was there. I was waiting for that door to open and someone to save me and love me. My mama told the shelter she would take me home “for the weekend” to give me a break, but that “weekend” was years ago. Mama learned “on the fly” about my special ability so she often tells people that they do not need to know much initially about CH. They just have to open their heart and home with a dash of patience, love & compassion. I promise they will not regret it!
Lola: Oh, Bifford, that is horrible! I’m so glad you were saved from that situation. Do you consider yourself a special needs cat? Do you need anything special at home to keep you safe and healthy?
Bifford: My mama says that all her babies are special in their own way, and I am no different. But the one thing she did that really helped me be more independent and stronger was to not “bubble wrap” me, as she coined the term. She let me play and chase my brothers, climb on the couch or in bed with her at night, stumble a bit and even sometimes crash (of course she was always there if I needed her.) When I first came to my mom and dad I could not get into bed at night, I would cry all hours of the night to the point I made my mama cry with frustration. But as time went on, she just kept loving me and being patient. And soon I was able to realize just how independent I truly am! Now I can play and lay in bed with mama, dad, and siblings, and I can climb onto the couch with my brother Bart all on my own.
Lola: You’re so lucky to have such wonderful parents. Tell me more about your siblings. What, if anything, makes you different from them?
Bifford: My mama calls my siblings and me the “house of adorable misfit toys”. The lineup consists of Bart, who is missing an eye (and his other eye is very ulcerated due to an untreated upper respiratory infection when he was a stray kitten); Roscoe, an epileptic rat terrier currently kicking cancer of the spleen’s butt; Bessie, who was found in the wall of an abandoned home in Youngstown, Ohio that was being demolished; and Lucy, a semi-feral calico that someone placed in a shopping bag and stuffed into mama’s mailbox in the middle of August. Most recently mama brought home Maxwell, a baby pug born with a severe curve of his spine as well as swimmers syndrome (where he struggles to use his back legs.) A backyard breeder came into mama’s clinic, upset that Maxwell was “costing her money” and was a “financial loss” for her. Luckily, she surrendered him to my mama.
Lastly, and it is important to me to include her as she was very important in my life, we recently lost Maggie Mae on 1/25/21 after she lost her battle with transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder and ultimately suffered a blood clot. Maggie was a product of Petland/Harbor Pets with inguinal hernia that coined her “defective”. They were placing her in a garbage bag when she was a puppy! My mama didn’t think twice about taking her home that day in 2006.
All of my siblings play an extremely important and beneficial role in the “campaign” and to bring awareness and understanding to specially-abled animals of all walks of life!
Lola: Your mama has a very special heart, that’s for sure. Can you tell me what a typical day is like for you? I hear you sometimes go to work with your mama!
Bifford: Sometimes I do like to go to work with my mama! Mainly because when I go I get to flirt with all the girls and my favorite doctors (who continue to spoil me rotten when I am there.) But a typical day for me consists of living the high life. Each night I cuddle with my mama and daddy in bed (of course at the head of the bed with them all tucked in snug as a pug.) In the morning, mama gets me up and we have our little routine – I snuggle with her while she brushes my hair and makes me “presentable” as she says, while I coo and purr. Then she gets me breakfast. Occasionally, I get jealous when my siblings want to cuddle mama because that is our quality time! After that I curl up on the couch with Bart and watch the news with my daddy and spend the day “yelling” at the birds, playing with my toys, and cuddling on the couch with the rest of my siblings!
Lola: It sounds like the purrfect way to spend a day. Tell us about your website and your advocacy for specially-abled animals. What inspired you to start it?
Bifford: It is sort of a frustrating story how my campaign started. After mama officially adopted me, she wanted to take me to get my vaccines updated so we went to a wellness clinic because we did not have a veterinarian at that time. I was bobbling around exploring the exam room and being my usual adorable self when a staff member popped her head into the room and quietly asked if we were there for euthanasia. My mama was shocked! She simply stated that we were there for my vaccines. The staff member looked confused, and with a pang of sympathy offered to cover the euthanasia as a courtesy because she said I was clearly “suffering.” My mama was absolutely floored! To say that she went “mama bear” would be an understatement (but I never loved my mama more than at that moment when she defended me) and we promptly left.
This sparked something in her. She found that there is an alarming number of veterinary professionals, rescues, and catteries that are not well versed in cerebellar hypoplasia in cats. This can, unfortunately, trigger misdiagnosis or even worse, euthanasia for cats like me. Mama felt it was very imperative for our campaign to happen!
Lola: Your Elite Team looks very impressive. I’m sure our readers would love to know about that.
Bifford: Thank you! My “Team of Elite” is important because we wanted to bring together other popular and important members of the specially-abled cat community as a group to bring awareness and understanding to specially-abled animals all over the world! (They earned this honor by the nomination of their peers and then picked at random.) Our amazing team consists of:
- Tipsy Butler
- Jack Hanna http://www.facebook.com/jackAndFriends
- Marty Jones http://www.facebook.com/marty.jones.75839
- Nilla Bean Hill http://www.faceobook.com/lilNillaBean @Lil_Nilla_Bean
- Coraline Eckles
- Frog Ferguson http://www.facebook.com/CatNamedFrog
- Brutiss Rising http://www.facebook.com/BrutissTheC.HKitten @Brutiss_The_CH_Cat
- Jinx Niven
- Bill Cooper
- Buttons Fassano @CH_Kitty_Buttons
- Bob Fournier
- Marty Fournier
Lola: That sounds like a very impressive team! What do you think people should know about adopting a pet with “different abilities?”
Bifford: The main thing I would like people to know is to not be afraid, overwhelmed, or turned off about adopting a specially-abled pet. We think that most families hear that these pets have “something wrong” with them, thus requiring more care, more financial restraints, etc. That is simply not true. I do not need any more veterinary care than my siblings (though it does help that mama has a “rainy day fund” for our medical care as well as has a care credit card in the event of major emergencies. We feel that any pet parent should make these preparations.) My mama jumped and took a chance on me without ever knowing anything about CH cats and she tells everyone that I am the “perfect gentleman”. I cannot jump onto the tables or counters and I cannot scratch where I am not supposed to. But I can go on adventures with my mom and dad because I cannot dash away from them (not that I would, though. I enjoy living the good life.) I have been to Hell, Michigan, had my picture taken at the 45th parallel, and I’ve seen Santa and the Easter Bunny several times.
Lola: Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Bifford: To not be afraid! Just because someone is different does not mean we are not worthy of love, compassion, and understanding!
Lola: Bifford, thank you for meowing with me today about this important topic. You were the purrfect guest! I’m sure people will look at CH kitties in a different light now.
Bifford: Thank you again, Lola, for this amazing interview, You are a true beacon in the cat community and it was such an honor to speak with you on something near and dear to my heart – my “campaign”!