HandiPet Alliance

          We’ve all heard the stories – – the tales from handipet parents sympathizing to one another in a Facebook group, the group chat including foster families and volunteers or even veterinary staff … 



             We have *all* heard the saying, “they can be ‘pet friendly’ BUT are they ‘handipet friendly’?”



         In the new year we decided to tweak some of our regular resolutions of education and awareness to bring something that is making the amazing handipet tri-pawd (get it?! tri-pawd!? Please forgive my “dad joke”!) the ultimate trifecta: unity!




          So we are launching the “HandiPet Alliance” – just a group of like-minded “allies” that can be anyONE that supports handipet awareness and compassion can apply! 

What Happens When Applying?


You will receive an e-mail confirming your submission & get our “alliance” logo to proudly display on your website/social media — wherever! 


If you are a veterinarian/organization you will be added to our “misfit map” and directory  (this is does not apply if you are NOT an organization) to alert others that you are misfit friendly! 

This “logo” will let the world know that you stand united with handipet advocacy and education and help network and unite pet parents worldwide! 


Let’s normalize the misfits!

The Unique in Disabled.

When I said it out loud it makes complete sense that I take a shine to the “broken” animals — the dejected, the forgotten because I am also fighting a silent battle in my own life to help educate and advocate for not only specially abled animals but also for myself…. an epileptic.

It is a very surreal and scary moment to be 22 years old sitting in a crowded college lecture hall on a sleepy Monday morning taking notes one moment and the next moment “come to” surrounded by a group of police, EMT etc., asking me if I knew where I was at, who the president was and what year it was. I was frustrated. Scared. Upset. My brain knew EXACTLY what I wanted to say but I was struggling to get my brain and my mouth to fall in line together but something was shorting out and I could not seem to push any words out to the chaos of people surrounding me as they placed me into an ambulance.

I was 22 when I had my first grand mal seizure. They never figured out WHY I started having seizures (my brother had juvenile epilepsy whereas I did not, but apparently gifted myself with idiopathic epilepsy as an adult) but since that initial diagnosis I have been robbed (twice) while having a seizure (the one instance they stole my jacket and shoes in the middle of winter on my college campus so I had the honor of walking barefoot to their campus police department), I have been grilled about what drugs I was taking that caused me to have a seizure (since a 22 year old covered in tattoos cannot POSSIBLY be drug free), I have been discriminated against at workplaces — asked if it was contagious, asked if they had a vaccine so their kids did not catch “epilepsy”, let go from jobs after being honest and open with them about my epilepsy and once even coined as a “liability” by a former employer despite working there several months with no issue until they had found out I had seizures. I have been poked, prodded, babysat like a child, mountains of medical bills, hospital stays and then the very real concern of SUDEP — sudden unexpected death of person with epilepsy. Which means one day I may have a seizure and never wake up. Statistically speaking every year more than 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die of SUDEP (according to epilepsy.com) SUDEP gets epileptics who do not have their seizures controlled but in my case it is “idiopathic” which means they do not know what causes my seizures so any treatment they recommend is more or less a “crap shoot” in hopes it sticks.

One of my many overnight EEG sessions. The perks of having strangers watch you sleep all night while hooked up to monitors and machines in a strange bed/environment (and you cannot have your phone or watch TV or any other normal activities before bed).

I guess as I reflect on my recent birthday that in all of the stigma that has surrounded my epilepsy…my life that it does not come as a shock that I want to push to better educate & advocate for specially-abled animals! The misunderstood, the forgotten — those that people look at with a pang of sympathy that we are all capable of love, empathy, compassion, understanding and patience (whether its pets or people!). I have been through so much since being diagnosed with epilepsy and learned so much but I learn the most daily by my “land of misfit toys” because they are resilient, always have such a cheery outlook and despite falling down they keep getting back up.

I need to keep getting back up. And continue to work to educate the world that having a disability is not a death sentence! It is not just for the tears or sympathy or attention — it boils down to education and advocacy. So just remember that whether you are talking to, working with etc., a person or pet (whether their disability is apparent or not) to always give them love, kindness & patience.

Boycott Petland/Harbor Pets

HSUS Undercover Investigation of just one of MANY investigations showing the poor practices and terrible quality of care these poor animals receive.

I know what you are thinking. Here comes the diatribe from an angry, mourning woman who had just lost her soulmate dog and wants to rail against PetLand/Harbor Pets.

Absolutely. But hear me out! Am I thankful that I just so happened to be in that horrible store at the right moment where Maggie was unfortunately being discarded like trash? Yes! I am forever grateful that I was there at that second to pipe up and volunteer to take this little bundle of fur and wrinkles home!

Petland/Harbor Pets gave me my soulmate. The light of my life. My best friend.

But I will FOREVER educate and inform people on the dangers and poor practices they utilize and how these poor puppies are products of backyard or amish breeders and are usually sick, have health problems (and usually chronic issues) all while Petland/Harbor Pets laughs all the way to the bank.

Take Maggie for example. She was from an amish breeder that Petland purchased her for $150.00 and they were going to turn around and sell her for $3999.99. Do not fret! Petland was so giving to those who cannot afford these sweet babies a credit card with “financing”! [Insert gagging noise here!]

You think to yourself that NO one in there right mind would purchase a puppy from a petstore where they have to finance (or spend thousands of dollars for that matter) but I can tell you that in my daily work at a local veterinary clinic I see these puppies CONSTANTLY. I also see the shock on their faces when their new expensive bundles of joy do not have valid vaccination records, have health issues (such as hernias, heart murmurs, cleft palates and more) or that the petland “warranty” is basically just a glorified piece of toilet paper.

This is an example of some of Petlands “glorified toilet paper”. Here is a copy of a “petland vaccine record” found on google. Note that the “vaccines” have no documentation of being administered by a veterinarian. They also do not list manufacturer, lot number or when they expire. You also do not know if these vaccines were handled properly or administered properly. Most veterinarian’s will not accept these records as they are not complete, not completed by a veterinarian and note that there was no physical examination completed by a licensed veterinarian so you have no idea what you are purchasing.

So how does Petland continue to get sales? In my honest opinion? They know how to play on the heartstrings of empathetic animal lovers that most likely have no idea what they are embarking on by purchasing one of these poor puppies. If you saw these sad, lonely puppies that live in groups with bars for walls and grates for grass wouldn’t it pluck at your heart strings?

My best advice? DO NOT BUY FROM PETLAND/HARBOR PETS! Ever. Point. Period. I know what you are thinking (or going to say) “But…But…this is where you saved Maggie from!”

You are right! This is where I rescued Maggie from but I only rescued her because I did not pay their prices thus supporting the vicious cycle. Maggie was considered trash to them, garbage, unable to profit them in anyway so of zero use to them.

Those that say they “rescued” their pets when they bought them from these stores I am sorry and I know this is an unpopular opinion but you BOUGHT an animal from them. You supported them. These stores do not care if you think you “saved them” or “rescued them” in fact they do not care what you do with these babies just as soon as your payment clears.

A former employee at Petland in Boardman summed up their thoughts on these animals with one melancholy statement, “A man came in and was looking at one of our rottie puppies. He was allowed to interact with her in one of the “rooms” where he suddenly began to hit her. I ran over and interrupted the abuse and was met with our manager who informed the man that he did not care what he did with the dog ONCE he bought it but until then the dog was Petland property and he was NOT allowed to behave that way…”

Petland did not care that this man was clearly a psychopath and hitting this dog, they did not care that the man was going to continue this cycle of abuse once he brought the dog home, Petland only cared that he purchased the dog first before “damaging” the goods.

Maggie Mae was the absolute light of my life and my saving grace in so many ways but it was no secret that I referenced to her as my adorable but very real “mutant” — she had bladder cancer, kidney stones, kidney failure (that had been years in the making), she came to me with an inguinal hernia, her dental disease was atrocious. She was every sense of the term a mutant but she was all mine. She was MY mutant and my best friend and I had an idea of what I was getting into by taking her home (and luckily I work at a veterinary clinic that helps take the “sting” out of almost bi-weekly veterinary visits, medications, diagnostics etc.,) but most families are overwhelmed once they fell in love with these tiny sweeties and take them to their vet’s only to find out they have a health condition or need a surgical procedure that choke you with dollar signs and not only that but takes a major emotional toll on you as well.

Personally I do not support breeders at all. I do not . That is strictly MY opinion but I tell families if they MUST buy from a breeder to PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do your homework. Research the breeder, their practices, their policies, their veterinary care in DETAIL. Be almost intrusive and invasive. Ask to see where the puppies live, ask to see their mothers and their living spaces. Do not be suckered in by cute photos of puppies only to find you have been hoodwinked and out hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Ask your veterinarian if they have breeder recommendations (they may be able to help you).

The best way to defeat these horrible places is to NEVER support them. Do not purchase anything from them. Do not allow yourself to be sucked into their stores and pressured into applying for their credit card for a puppy. Do not let them tug on your heartstrings because you are only fueling the cycle again and again. These stores know what they are doing. They do not care HOW they get a sale they just want a sale.

Write to your local state government. Stage a peaceful protest at these locations. Create a petition. Report them to the Better Business. Use your voice to be the voice of these poor puppies but also for their “moms” who are left back at the backyard breeders who are living in horrible, deplorable conditions and continued to be bred and bred past the point of exhaustion. Fight the “good fight” and help shut these businesses down!

In honor of my sweet angel, Maggie Mae 09/13/2006-01/25/2021

Life is Mysterious

I would like to believe that I am not so cynical to not believe in signs from above but this one, this one was so blatantly obvious that one could not help but NOT ignore it.

I lost my best friend, my light of my life, my “reason” on Monday 01/25/2021 and to say that I was handling it poorly was an understatement. I was on “autopilot”, masking my utter sadness and heartbreak behind a false smile and felt so incomplete that I felt would be permanent and just simply “who I was” from now on.

Until Monday 03/08/2021.

I heard commotion in my veterinary clinic I work for with my name coming up several times (which peaked my interest) as I saw a small crowd circling something … something tiny. I as made my way into the small group of women I saw him… meet Maxwell Walker (Maxwell after The Beatle’s song “Maxwell Silver Hammer”) an eight week old pug puppy (though the doctors suspect he may be younger) who is a “swimmer puppy”.

Swimmer Puppy Syndrome is a developmental deformity that results in a puppy having a flattened thorax/chest. They may have mobility issues that with physical therapy can be (for the most part) corrected it just takes a lot of patience and humility.

Meet Max:

Max will never replace Maggie ever and in fact he may be nothing like Maggie which I accept and understand also (I used to often joke that I wasn’t a “pug person” but I was an avid “Maggie person”) but I can only hope that somewhere tucked deep inside that tiny little pug puppy is a quality or two that Maggie had for so long – that patience, that calmness and most of all affection.

I know it will take time for Max to grow on me (frankly he’s creeping into my ❤️) and it will take even more time to work on getting him to use his back legs and be more mobile (without my assistance).

If you’ve been wondering why the site and our social media platforms went on a short, short sabbatical it’s because of this little dude. We’re working with him constantly as far as physical therapy, hydrotherapy, puzzles and exercise regularly (in addition to trying to potty train) as well as care for the other part of the crew has managed to occupy the rest of my day (happily of course!).

Please be patient with us as we work to find a happy medium between Maxwell and the rest of the day’s agendas — I promise we will return with gusto! Stay tuned folks!


Friends, it is hard these days to not turn on the TV or go online and be faced with sad, devastating images of the atrocities going on in Ukraine so in all of this bleakness we wanted to share with you some shimmers of light.

First off we want to be very clear in saying that we misfits stand with our friends in Ukraine and continue to send them love, prayers, compassion and support in any way that we can. Our hearts continue to break over the utter chaos and devastation that our friends (both two and four legged) are suffering in Ukraine.

Since this disruption for our friends in Ukraine we have gotten requests for carrier tags from not only Ukraine but also neighboring countries – all with the intent of giving them out so animals have a chance of being identified if they have a special ability but also leaving owners the ability to put their name and number on it in the event they are separated.

We continue to receive brief messages of families that are grateful for these carrier tags in a war torn area and several that were reunited with their handipet thanks to our carrier tags.

We even received an email from one pet parent that did not stray away from talking about cerebellar hypoplasia despite bombs going off in the distance. Friends we are in this together! We continue to show our support for Ukraine and we hope that you will also!

Keep fighting the good fight misfits!

Mad Max Chronicles — A Year!

Often, we hear the age old “it’s just like riding a bike!” but I can say that if anyone is going to even hint at my life (especially with my husband and the “misfits”) being “like riding a bike” I will agree – only if that bike is on fire with one flat tire and someone sticks a crowbar into one of the wheels! But it is our hot mess, and we would not want it any other way – just like all of you and your very own adorable “misfits”.

A year ago, I can easily say my life was absolutely and dramatically different than it is today (I mean can’t we all agree on that when looking at our lives in the last year?). In that short year I lost the loves of my entire life Maggie & Roscoe, I left a job that I had adored but was burned out mentally and physically, all these ups and downs are happening so quickly and closely it is hard to not feel a bit of vertigo (and resist throwing up).


The first 48 hours together

The one thing that had changed and is an ongoing adventure is our very own Maxwell. A year ago, today while still at my former clinic a co-worker (who is now my best friend) approached me about a miserable client with this tiny pug puppy complaining that the doctor wanted x-rays and we were clearly “ripping her off” – the pug puppy came in to see the doctor for back leg paralysis.

Reluctantly the “owner” agreed to the x-rays and the images told such a story – dudes spine twisted and turned in ways unimaginable.


All sorts of jacked up!

The “owner” we found was actually a backyard breeder with no emotional connection nor empathy for the tiny pug who was the only one out of 10 puppies that had this condition.

The doctor and my best friend approached me in a joking manner and asked if I wanted a pug puppy. I briefly saw Maxwell in passing but did not pay him much mind, my heart was still hurting from losing Maggie Mae that January.

The doctor spoke to the woman about the small pug puppy and her concerns. The woman was agitated by the diagnosis, “I have already sold him! I took the deposit and everything!”

When the doctor explained her concerns again the woman was uninterested in the discussion, “I just need you to sign the form saying he is healthy so I can get him gone!” (I may have spared a few foul words in there).

By then the doctor was sensing the hostility in the woman and then asked if she would be interested in surrendering him to someone on the staff who is patient with these types of pets as well as a former pug owner.

Reluctantly the woman agreed to sign the small puppy owner to me only before remarking “if I was going to have to take him back home, I was going to drown him in the sink”

After that regardless of if I wanted another dog, regardless of if I was even ready, I knew this little guy was never ever going to go back to that woman ever again.

Agreeing to a puppy that an hour earlier I had no intentions of taking home I immediately called my husband who (to the shock of absolutely NO one) was not surprised that I had elected to take the broken lad home to our adorable misfits, or that I had refused to hand him back to the toxic woman that was breeding pugs for financial gain.

Surreal does not begin to explain those first 48 hours – I best explain it almost as if you had a baby but had no idea you were pregnant to begin with? We only had elderly dogs in the house and had never had a puppy together in the adorable house of misfits (let alone a handipup) so we were ill prepared at home to accommodate a puppy – let alone a puppy that we had no clue what exactly was wrong with him (aside from his spine being drunk). I would describe those first few days as walking like a newborn calf, but we made it work you know. We accepted the boy into our misfit crew and just like the goonies we never say die! So, in the thick and thin of it all we would figure it out (sometimes not so successfully)!

Honestly the first two weeks were rough for the small little pug (that I was calling “tater” at that time because he was no bigger than a baked potato) and myself because of many reasons – my mind and heart saw a pug and yearned for it to be Maggie and then I was sad yet resentful all over again and I could not help it, I was struggling to have an emotional connection with the tiny pup and that filled me with guilt, in addition to that we did not know exactly what his issues were at the time and were unaware of what he was capable of doing on his own or needed assistance with or for as morbid as it sounds we did not know on how borrowed of time we truly were with him so subconsciously we put up an emotional wall in a failed attempt to protect us from the inevitable (see how that worked out right?!) But again, just like riding a bike each day we did a little better, we all got a little stronger and we “trekked on” with caring for Max and his brothers.

We also at that time struggled because though he could pull himself around with his front legs, he seemed to leave a rather noticeable “snail trail” of urine behind him so for the sake of cleanliness (for him and for the environment) he had his own little pen that was actually ordered for a rabbit because he was still so small.

In that year I have learned a wealth of things both animal and non- animal related. Ever heard the saying “never piss upwind?” well as a 30 something female I never had that distinct pleasure until having Max.

  • Do not sweat the small shit because it is all small shit. – In one of Max’s early on baths he decided to gift me with some code browns while in the bath and as I held max dripping soapy wet over the tub wondering what I should do next all I could do was bust out laughing!


  • Also, as a follow up to above said advice, I now also have the honor of knowing what it is like to literally have someone pissing on my shoes all while giving me the saddest love eyes in a failed attempt to convince me that his perfection could never do such a thing and clearly it is raindrops.


  • The resilience of an animal (especially a young one like a puppy) is remarkable in so many ways! Maxwell enjoys taunting his brothers and especially loves the game when Bifford swishes his poof all around and max attempts to air chomp it (sometimes he connects, most times he does not because Bifford gives him the drunken angry pirate look and failed left hook).
  • With resiliency also comes extreme stubbornness – Maxwell receives at home physical therapy exercises (in hopes he may use one of his back legs someday) as well as water therapy and some days max looks more like a turd floating in a punch bowl than a dog committed to walking (I often joke it is one of the greatest tragedies in Maxer’s life that he cannot in fact, be carried and thus never have to use his legs ever again). So often we have a “standoff” to see who cracks first – full disclaimer it is usually me who cracks first, I am weak willed in some arenas and the handipets are on the top of that list (they also know this).
  • From now until the cows come home, we will forever get people telling us how sorry they feel for me/my family/max (one of the biggest offenders is my grandpa, despite loving max so much and gifting him with toys anytime he sees him) and that’s alright because you must learn to meet that with humor and a dash of education! I ALWAYS follow up whenever someone is lamenting how sorry they are with, “well, why do you feel sorry for me/us/him? What makes you feel sad?” Because from where I see it the little dude who is hand fed snacks, has a crib full of toys and a wait staff I am failing to see the downside for the dude (especially one that must put in zero effort to wiz).


  • Which leads me to this point, and I know it is like a broken record but be your pet’s OWN ADVOCATE! Your friends, your rescue, your veterinarian, and their team can all tell you what to do, their opinions and how to handle things but at the end of the day it is YOUR responsibility and decision! I will give you a great example: Maxwell had been in my life for a solid 6 months before we took him to the neurologist, by then we had a semi-firm idea of what to expect from him and how to best help him, we knew what was normal for him (he loves to huff and puff his lips especially when he is meeting new people or pouting) and what was not! So, when the neurologist came to me with major concern for Max’s overall quality of life because of the “way he would breathe” – it was alarming for someone who did not know max, but it was normal for those who see him daily. So, you can get instruction on what your vet would do but that is what THEY would do! Get a second opinion before making any rash decisions (but use good judgement). 

Stay tuned for more Maxwell Misfit wisdom and the ongoing journey that is the adorable land of misfits!