After meeting a few adoptable dogs who weren’t quite a fit, they met Vivian, a blind 12-year-old Dalmatian. Upon meeting her, Jeff knelt down, and she placed her feet on his shoulders in a hug. Taking her for a walk, Jeff and Michael considered the situation. Blind dogs can be a challenge. Could they accommodate her needs? Could they anticipate them all?
While they had many questions, they knew it was a fit, deciding what they didn’t know they would figure out. Soon after, Vivian was diagnosed with cancer, and the pair fought for her. She was gone in just six months, but her time with them was life changing. Happy, brave, zesty Vivian inspired the formation of Angels. Jeff says her joy for life, even when unable to see, helped them see they could be there for others with special needs.
Jeff and Michael began seeking out dogs with special needs. They found many were being overlooked by adopters. After Vivian came Howard, then Camo. Word spread through the rescue community, and they began receiving increasing calls about hard to place dogs.
The Angels are unique. Each addition becomes a member of the family. The dogs are not kenneled, but live as family, a pack. They come and go from the back yard as they please, sleep in the bed, take over the sofas, play, bicker, and get into mischief — all together.
Michael and Jeff are limited to who and how they can help. Michael works by day while Jeff cares for the animals. His days are spent providing the Angels with necessary treatments, and managing their Facebook page and marketing campaigns. Given the nature of each animal’s needs, much time is spent on the road for veterinary appointments, acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy.
Between Dalmatians and Great Danes, Jeff and Michael found a unique opportunity to educate the public. Since both breeds can be genetically prone to vision and hearing impairment, they are able to teach people what it’s like to live with a deaf or blind dog. They also teach about breeding practices that cause such defects.
The Awesome Truth
The dogs don’t know they are different. As long as they are free of pain or discomfort they are just dogs. Those with hind-end impairment have wheelchairs, but Jeff says they’re only really needed for walks or hikes. Physical therapy helps support their bodies and build compensatory strength, and otherwise, they just do what dogs do. They happily hang out with Jeff, Michael, and visitors, and play or lounge on the couch.
Jeff says it can sometimes be difficult to help people understand the dogs have a good life. “Sure, physical therapy and all that care is work, but it helps them stay strong. It’s what we would do for ourselves or our human loved ones. Even the ones who can’t see or hear are perfectly happy. Their noses know, and they get around fine. Other senses kick in and act in place of sight or sound.”
Of course the work is exhausting, and sometimes sad. Jeff says he does it because he loves being in service. In this case, to dogs. It doesn’t tire, drain or exhaust him, he says – it energizes him. Without the support of Angels’ followers, he says the dogs wouldn’t have the incredible lives they do.
You can help
While handling day-to-day care, Jeff, Michael and family can sometimes use help with paperwork, poop pickup, and other tasks. Anyone interested should contact them through Facebook or angelswithmisplacedwings.org. Financial support will always be needed. Each Angel’s care is extensive. Every August the sanctuary hosts an annual fundraiser, “The Flight of Angels,” opening their Vancouver home to Angel fans for a barbeque, silent auction, and raffle.