How this remarkable journey
all began!

Mike and I went down to our local shelter to adopt a new family member. We met a vibrant young shepherd, there was no question in his mind, he wanted out and he was coming home with us! We named him Duke.

Duke was a playful young pup and on a pretty spring day, all of our lives changed forever. While puppy playing, a dog jumped on his back and severed his spinal cord. We were told several times to euthanize him, “ he would have no quality of life.” Duke's surgery was not successful, and his wheelchair defined him for the next 13 years of his life. Duke was still vibrant, fun, and slowly becoming the voice for dogs in need. When we adopted Duke and took him home it, was a commitment thru sickness and health. He was part of our family.

A few months later we heard about another dog in need named Misty, who had been living in a NY shelter for over 5 years. Nobody wanted Misty because she had hind leg problems, and also needed a wheelchair. Hundreds and hundreds of people passed her cage, not even giving her a chance. We went to NY and adopted her immediately.

After experiencing the impact of Duke and Misty on our family and everyone they met, we soon realized there was NO support or education for dogs and cats with physical disabilities. We started a grassroots organization and called it Pets with Disabilities. It quickly took on a life of its own!

For the past 15 years, Mike and I have dedicated our lives to our mission. We both had full time jobs, but within a few years, I decided to leave my small business and dedicate myself fully to rescue work. We thank Duke for entering our life and making us better people. This certainly has been a labor of love. A mission and legacy that will continue long after our physical being has left.

Thank you for the human team that has evolved over the years to make PWD one of the best rescues for “Pets with Disabilities”.

Joyce and Mike


Our Rescue Facility -

We believe in treating animals the way we would like to be treated. Our facility has all the comforts of a cozy home. My husband and I have worked and thought very hard to make a difference in the sheltering of our dogs in rescue. We also wanted our volunteers to enjoy their work. The rescue is behind our home and sits before acres of forest. We believe our facility is one of a kind in our area. 

From the outside - this climate controlled  building looks like a modern barn.  The barn sits on a beautiful tranquil setting in southern Maryland.  A great place for dogs to come and heal.   Each 10x10  apartment is furnished with a comfy dog beds,  peanut butter Kong's, knucklebones, and most important each apartment has a window. We believe light is essential for all living creatures. Also, no dog runs here at PWD - ONLY free range exercise. The dogs have access to approximately three acres and are out several times a day.  We pride ourselves on making sure each dog is comfortable, safe and stress free during their stay here!

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The Barn

The PWD "apartment building" is a second floor that holds the administrative offices and dog-friendly furniture.  Several times throughout the day, dogs will come hang upstairs for some quality time that is more like in a home environment.


The "Barn" - second floor

 

The PWD facility also has two Annex apartments. These are used for dogs that need to recuperate from surgery or need a quiet environment - as many of the heart worm positive dogs coming into rescue require.  They have their own fenced area around the buildings.  The buildings also have heat, AC, windows, and music playing for the dogs.


Maddie Annex (Maddie was attitude on wheels - our third and smallest wheelchair dog) This is our annex for smaller dogs with disabilities. A safe haven for them, since our barn is usually filled with bigger pups.   

The Annex "apartments" are also equipped with remote access cameras, allowing us to monitor the dogs on a 24X7 basis.


Misty Annex (Misty was a feisty corgi mix and our second wheelchair dog.  She became Duke's mom and staunchest protector!) This is another nice quiet area for dogs that are recuperating from surgeries and or  heartworm treatment. 

The Annex Apartments

 

The Casey Annex and Adoption Center is named after a true ambassador for the 3-legged dog. (Casey was a sweet chocolate Lab that went everywhere with Joyce, loyal and happy to meet anyone.) This cozy climate controlled annex is a versatile space for our rescue.  We utilize this area for meet and greets with potential adopters, events, and for larger dogs that need a quite homelike atmosphere for heartworm treatment or surgery rehabilitation.

The Casey Annex


A DOG'S LIFE AT PETS WITH DISABILITIES

We respond to dogs that no other rescue will help - giving them the opportunity and time to heal. We provide ALL the necessary medical and nutritional care these dogs will need for a second chance. We have been focused on the daily TLC these dogs are so deserving of and we have witnessed the transformation of broken spirits and bodies into healthy, vibrant dogs anxious to find their forever families.

The unbroken spirit of the disabled dog is a humbling experience.  We provide just a little TLC and it's returned 10 fold.  All of these dogs work to get ready for their new homes - complete with wagging tails, big smiles, and a huge heart to share.  It's so important that we are able to continue helping dogs with disabilities.

Pets with Disabilities has succeeded for over 15 yrs because of the gifts these dogs choose to share  - teaching and opening hearts. They have taught us:

  • Living with a wheelchair dog, it is a labor of love. Although their back legs may no longer be mobile, their spirit is certainly not broken. They are still the same dog you once loved and will continue to enjoy life with a little help from their family. The biggest challenge to most people is time, it will take time to put their dogs in and out of their wheelchair for daily exercise, it will take time to clean, many wheelchair dogs will have accidents, so you will have to invest in clever ways to keep it manageable. We have an area for our wheelchair dogs that is easy to clean and they feel like they are part of our family. The most amazing thing to witness was watching our border collie, Kiri still be able to herd sheep in a her wheelchair or watching Duke, enjoying his trail walks, even the most challenging he conquered in wheels. Seeing a dog a wheelchair enjoy life is the true meaning of unconditional human love. We are here to help with other questions and support when needed.
     

  • Living with a blind dog is very similar to living with a sighted dog - many of the blind dogs at the rescue where born blind, so they are fearless in their movements and have acute hearing and smelling senses.  They may bump into something, but it's usually only once.  When we open the apartment doors - they come out the door, down the hall, and into the yard without missing a beat.  They will all jump up on their futon beds, and they like toys, and some how they always know where their person is for the hugs and belly rubs.  We really like our blind rescues to have a fenced yard and railings on any stairways.  We encourage you to open your heart to a blind dog - they will repay you with their huge heart!!
     

  • Living with a deaf dog has many advantages!  You can come in the front door, put your coat and bags down before they know you're there and the greetings begin.  They are not thunder phobic.  The door bell does not create chaos.  Deaf dogs create a tremendous bond with their guardians - all communication is done with sight, so their eyes are always "on you".  We have met many people that have enjoyed learning "doggie sign language" and gotten creative in their heart connections to their dogs.  Deaf dogs seem to wag their tails as hard as any hearing dog. They love to chase their toys, cuddle, get belly rubs, and be with their person.  If you'd like a companion that won't complain about your singing voice or how loud you keep the TV - but will completely bond to your heart and moods -  experience the special relationship the deaf dogs love to have.
     

  • Living with the 3 legged dogs and dogs with other physical disabilities - at Pets with Disabilities. We know these dogs have physical "disabilities" you can see - but they certainly don't have a disabled spirit.  They manage their missing leg or physical imperfection without missing a beat.  Their hearts are open, their eyes pleading for acceptance.  They may not be running marathons, but they will win your heart.

We also KNOW their spirits are NOT broken.  Thank you for your interest in our work.



Remembering our friends with the unbroken spirits.....

Since Duke, we've been blessed to share our home and hearts with many friends with unbroken spirits - we know they are all with Duke now, watching over the rescue, and keeping us "rolling" with our mission.  Thank you to all of them for the gifts you shared, the courage you had, and the lessons of the heart you taught us everyday. You have been a partner in our mission at PWD - and will always hold a place in our hearts.

In February 2019, under a bright sunny sky our Megan's final chapter in the physical world ended. No words can describe losing our true canine copartner. Sharing this sad news today is hard, but we all share some wonderful  memories of our Ambassador. We will miss her sweet gentle personality, lying in the sun her beautiful eyes looking up in the sky, her confidence, and "The Megan Siren" any change of energy good or bad at her place her siren would go off and we all knew we better get on it quick. Because of Megan so many hounds and blind dogs were rescued and adopted.

Megan will be remembered forever and we will cherish our memories and honor her life. So thankful we got that urgent call from a Richmond shelter, as she was slated for euthanasia. Mike jumped in the car and met the shelter manager at a rest stop by Richmond.
And the rest is now history for our sweet girl. Rest in eternal peace Megan.

Everyone loved Miss Megan.

 


Today is NOT a sad day but a day we are going to celebrate the life of our Ernie..  Ernie was our golden boy, the big white teddy bear would put a smile on everyone's face. Ernie had plenty of health challenges that he conquered over the years, but this past month his body was tired and we knew our golden boy was ready to leave the physical earth. We will miss our early morning wake up calls, we certainly did not need an alarm clock when Ernie was around, 430 am his unique bark would start. He was the main dude for our annual Camden Yards event, he was so energized meeting 1000's of people. He loved his home, his pack of wheelchair friends he shared his life with, and most important he loved all the people who cared for him, and how could you not love him right back.  Thank you to the New England Hospital "who did not give up on our Ernie" and took the time to reach out to us.        We are thankful to have given Ernie 13 additional healthy and happy years. One thing for certain, if anyone knew how to maneuver the universe, its Ernie. so he can remind all those he encounters that challenges can be met with panache, and he is forever living proof.


Pets with Disabilities - 635 Clay Hammond Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678
Phone: 443-624-9270 Email: petswithdisabilities@comcast.net

National Capital Area CFC Number 71315