Dr. Walton Schalick, a physical and medical historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says animal disability is an emerging field of study and he challenges his students to consider its complexity. Schalick also is a specialist in pediatric rehabilitation at American Family Children's Hospital in Wisconsin and associate editor for Encyclopedia of Disability.
He coined the terms "xenodisability" and "zoodisability" to refer to animal disabilities and said humans owe disabled animals an enormous debt for what they teach us about ourselves.
"They tug at our heart strings and bring out the best in us," Schalick says. "With their big eyes and heads that are sometimes larger than their bodies, they can look like children. How we approach an animal with a disability says a lot of how we, in general, treat people with disabilities."
Now, here's the surprising statement:
A disabled animal will often find a permanent home sooner than a healthy one will, said Larry Ringbauer, facility manager of the Will County Humane Society in Shorewood (Chicago area).
"It's a sympathy thing," Ringbauer said. "If they have the patience for it, people can help handicapped animals live a normal life. But we won't let people adopt disabled pets just because they feel sorry for them. Having a handicapped animal is like having a handicapped child"
Sound familiar? Check out the whole story for yourself, and give yourself a little smile today.