Monday, March 3, 2014

"I don't get why she's special"

In October, I talked about our struggles with Sunshine's health.  Since August, Sunshine has had pneumonia every month.  We can almost set our calendars to when she gets it.  On top of her diabetes, arthritis and compressed disc diagnoses, she has recently been diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis.  This condition makes her more prone to pneumonia, but, ironically, the treatment for it would me she would get pneumonia three times as much.  Not sure how that works, but it definitely provides muscle behind the argument that not every surgery is a good surgery.  Some pneumonia episodes have been more advanced than others and our vet has seen my ugly cry more times than I am comfortable with, but every single time she bounces back.

The battle with her immune system has taken a toll on her compressed discs.  The movement in her back feet has degenerated to the point that she no longer fixes her positions on her own as she is unaware that there is a problem until she loses her balance.  The cart we got in September has been a tremendous help for every one, obviously, most especially Sunshine.  Her doggie grin as we walk around the block makes my heart smile every time!

On a recent walk, a little boy on the cranky neighbor side came up and asked if he could pet Sushine and Noelle.  He said that he recognized Sunshine from when she used to go to the bus stop.  He said that his dog didn't need a cart and when I told him Sunshine needed a cart because she was special, he said, in the honest way of children "I don't get why she's special."  I asked him how many dogs he had seen using carts and when he replied none, I said "That's why she's special.  Not many other dogs could sport a piece of equipment this impressive."

By now, I'm used to the curious looks and pitying looks.  I think that people think we are prolonging her life unnecessarily.  You need only to visit us to see how much life she still has in her to know that she will most assuredly let us know when she is ready.  But, as always, I began to draw parallels to folks with special needs.  We call them special needs to be kind, or PC, but how many people think to themselves "I don't get why they're special?"  How many people are still using "retarded" to describe some friend's antics (btw, if you ARE still using "retarded" at all, Google why you shouldn't.  When you use "retarded" to describe something or someone, you aren't actually insulting the person you are talking about, you're insulting a person with special needs.  The more you know...) 

We're all special in our own way, but those who are working so hard to overcome the physical and developmental challenges life has placed in their way are "extra special".  Shouldn't we do more to celebrate them, and their victories, great and small, instead of trying to shut them out?  We do so much unintentional harm to fragile psyches when we ignore folks who work so hard to walk, or to feed themselves, or to communicate with us, when a smile or a nod or a simple "hello" would cost us so little and provide so much reward.  I'd rather have a little boy saying "I don't get why she's special" as it provides a gateway to education, acceptance and understanding.

Again, I hesitate to draw parallels between what we experience with our differently abled dog and differently abled humans, but by and large, the human reaction to disabilities remains the same.  Hopefully, the next time that little boy sees a differently abled human, or animal, he'll "get" why they are special. 

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