Last week brought the end of a truly unique odyssey with a handicapped hound named Nazareth, and his human caregiver Jackie.
Naz was about 12 years old when he was found in late 2011 on the balcony of a Toronto apartment building: starved, dehydrated and, due to paralysis in his rear end and inability to fend for himself, was being eaten alive by birds. Near dead, local folk finally called it into the OSPCA, who attended, and brought him into the Newmarket Ontario shelter in a severe state. Naz was vetted, assessed and put up for adoption. But no "normal person" is likely to adopt a senior, paralyzed hound.
Mercifully, a young woman named Meaghan who worked at the shelter, took a serious liking to Naz. A wheelchair (albeit ill-fitting) was found. And boy, could Naz motor in it! Early footage showed him peeling around outside the shelter in his wheelchair, feeling oh-so-good and shouting it to the skies! Meaghan then took her advocacy a step further, and reached out to the Ontario rescue networks to try to find a suitable placement.
In early December, an urgent late-night email thread stated Naz was under threat of being euthanized. Like, tomorrow. Despite having a clear will to live, Naz was deemed un-adoptable. Ontario rescuers stepped up, and miraculously arranged for his transfer to foster the next morning. Days later, a rescuer came forward to take him permanently.
Enter Jackie Parkin, from I'll Stand By You Rescue, in the Hamilton area. Jackie was absolutely taken with Naz's story. And from the moment they laid eyes on each other, it was true love.
For the next two years, Naz became the sole focus of Jackie's life -- and enrichment was the name of the game. Therapy was provided by www.caninewellness.com. A customized wheelchair ensued, as did a therapeutic bed, consults with regional specialists, and ongoing care-giving for his bedsores, incontinence, and endless comfort-seeking behaviours. In very short order, he had Jackie trained to respond to his every whim, bark and cue, knocking herself out to make him happy, comfortable, and most significantly, engaged.
Months later, Naz became fully paralyzed. Weighing in around 80 lbs, it did not deter Jackie. Despite his size and lack of mobility, she took him everywhere possible. Their Facebook page showed Jackie resolutely loading Naz into his special bed in the van, and take him out into the community, attending as many outdoor and indoor events and activities as one could imagine. Naz and friends at a Team K9 holiday party, Naz hanging with a litter of puppies, Naz attending fundraisers created to help with his ongoing costs. Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's day show him with a new bone, toy or outfit, bright-eyed and alert to everything going on around him. And at home, the other animals in the house all took turns bonding, hanging out and sleeping with him, including, in the last few months, a very special friend "Billy," a billy goat.
Last Friday, Naz's Facebook page took on a very sombre tone, with news of his steady decline. Nazareth Parkin was put to sleep by his caring vet, in his bed, in his van. And right to the last second, Jackie stood by her friend, Naz.
Who knows what special magic it was that Jackie employed to tend to Naz and his incredible needs for almost two full years, and what magic she used to stay so cheerful and accepting of such a difficult calling and arduous journey.
Recently Jackie posted: "I'm thankful for Nazzie, for the honour of being his person, for the privilege of looking after him, for the lessons he has taught me, for the amazing people I've met through him, and most especially, for the love he shares with me every day."
The animal rescue community encourages regular citizens to remain pro-active and alert to animals in distress. We want you to know that it's really quite possible to care for special needs animals. While daunting in the beginning, small adjustments to home circumstances and scheduling, coupled with support from family and the rescue community make it truly possible to care for an animal with special needs.
The rewards are astounding. The satisfaction of successfully caring for such a pet knows no bounds. The bond that exists between an animal and caregiver are well known -- the bond that exists between a special needs animal and their caregiver are life-altering. It's a special journey, one that Jackie would assure you, will have a most positive impact on the course of your life.