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Finding a Path to Adopting Special Needs Dogs

Tracey Fowler loves dogs. She loves dogs so much that even when she loses a pet, she overcomes her pain and just keeps going, eventually adopting more dogs in need. Tracey doesn’t  just adopt any dog, she adopts special needs dogs.


When we scheduled a visit to Tracey’s home in Vermont, no one suspected that one of Tracey’s beloved dogs, Newton, would pass away the night before our visit.

Tracey urged us to come anyway. It’s not like she can slow down and stay in bed for a few hours to nurse her pain: she has seven other dogs who depend on her.

A Day in the Life with Special Needs Dogs

When we arrived at Tracey’s home, we were enthusiastically greeted by two huge German Shepherds, George and Nordic. These dogs came into Tracey’s life before she realized that she had a soft spot for specially abled dogs.



a German Shepherd with partial rear paralysis who occasionally uses a dog wheelchair, joined in on the fun. There was lots of barking and excitement: company!

disabled german shepherd dog

The three German Shepherds and Tracey ushered us into the bedroom, where the other four dogs were waiting patiently for their morning routine: Heath, Tom Turkey, Hope, and Mendon. All four of them need dog wheelchairs in order to be mobile. Each dog had spent the night snuggled into blankets placed in their own playpens. Tracey lifted each dog out and placed him or her in a wheelchair. Some needed to be diapered as well.



Tom Turkey

special needs dog


Tracey takes it all in stride. She discovered her gift of caring for special needs dogs when her German Shepherd, Hayden, who has since passed became lame due to degenerative myelopathy (DM). After Hayden’s death, Tracey found that she “missed the sound of rolling wheels,” and adopted another disabled dog from Heath’s Haven Rescue.

Once she opened her heart to these dogs, she just kept opening it wider! It is usually harder to find adoptive homes for disabled rescue dogs. Many people have never seen disabled animals up close and aren’t sure what’s required or if they would feel confident in caring for them. So disabled dogs often languish in rescues and shelters.

But not if Tracey can step in! She devotes her life to caring for these sweet pets. They’re one big family with a whole lot of love going around.

Life Is Rich When You See Love in Action

Tracey mourns the loss of each pet that passes, but she keeps going. She has her canine family to care for, and she knows there are so many other pets who need good homes. She adopts disabled rescue dogs to honor the memory of the dogs who have passed.

And the dogs surely give Tracey lots of love in return. When they go hiking together, Tracey doesn’t even need to leash the dogs. They stick together in one happy pack!

hiking with disabled dogs

“You’re showing people that there is an option. It’s not for everybody. But the lives that you can save . . . it makes you a better person.”

Watch the video below to see how Tracey makes it all seem easy! See what the morning routine is like and a hike through the woods with her dogs, both abled and special needs. And hear what Tracey has to say about dealing with loss and being the mom to disabled pets:

Tracey gives these dogs the gift of life, because without rescuing them, they may very well have been euthanized. Now they play in the yard, hike through the woods, and do all the things every other happy dog does . . . just on wheels!

“Hayden put me on my path of life. I’ll always have cart dogs . . . always!”

disabled dogs hiking

disabled-dog disabled dog wheelchair

Tom Turkey wheelchair dogHeath the handicapped rescue dog

special needs dog water bowl

For more about Tracey and her canine family, visit this blog post.

Did we answer all your questions on "Special need dogs"?


  1. I love it. We also rescue disabled, abused and medical needs dogs. We also make and donate dog wheel chairs. So cute.. We have a two legged weiner dog named Bubbles.

  2. This blog shows me that there are still people who care! Thank you! I am searching for a home for a special needs beagle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Can you tell me more about the dog? What type of special needs? Where are you located? Is it your dog or in a shelter, etc.? Thanks!

  3. Hello

    I have a poodle/shitzu dog that has become paralyzed in his hind legs. He does kinda sorta wiggle his tail but not like a speed wiggles which makes me feel thefe is hope yet. Hes 5 years old. He woke up paralyzed one day out of no where . We spent over 6k on spinal surgery . Did all that I can for him and still nothing after 6 months. I can no longer care for him due to physical strains (I have lower back issues and herniated discs) also financial restraints. Is there anywhere in PA I can take him so he can be taken care of because Putting him to sleep is last resort for me. Please let me know

    • Hi Ani,

      It sounds like your poodle/shitzu mix could really benefit from a Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair. A wheelchair can help support his spinal injury and help him to regain his independence and save your back. There are plenty of resources available to reach out to for assistance to help you give your pet the best care possible. Visit for a list of resources to assist you.

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