Josh, a two-year old pit bull mix, was found by Chicago Animal Care and Control in a dumpster on the Southside of Chicago in January 2015. As a result of blunt force trauma to his thoracic spine, he had lost the use of his back legs. Chicagoland Bully Breed Rescue took an interest in Josh. They rescued him from animal control and brought him to a veterinarian, who performed x-rays and treated him for pneumonia. At that time, it was confirmed that surgery would not fix his legs.
Bialy’s Wellness Foundation entered Josh’s life in February 2015 when founder, Erin Kowalski, and her husband, Will, offered to foster him. They had a lot of experience with special needs animals—Erin, also a canine massage therapist, provided daily massage therapy at home. Josh also attended Integrative Pet Care three times a week for physical therapy, laser therapy, hydrotherapy, acupuncture and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES).
In August 2015, Josh was officially adopted by his foster parents and since then, began receiving most of his therapy at home. Hydrotherapy was taken out of his routine because as his body grew, he developed luxating patellas—a condition in which the knee cap begins floating out of its natural position. This condition was exacerbated in the underwater treadmill.
Due to his condition, Josh also has bladder and fecal incontinence and needs to be expressed multiple times a day. This also makes him more prone to urinary tract infections. Josh participated in the Clinical Trial for Paralyzed Dogs at Iowa State University until December 2015, and as a result his bladder strength increased significantly. He is also so used to his therapy routine that he even reminds Erin when it is time for his massage. Josh, described as “happy, resilient and inclusive,” truly enjoys all the work that he does and is extremely skilled moving around in his wheelchair.
Erin shared some additional insights with us on caring for Josh and a special needs pets.
Q: What is the best part about having a special needs pet?
A: The best part is the unwavering bond and trust that comes with caring for a pet who can't do some activities without your help. I've learned what unconditional love truly means.
Q: What advice would you give to someone adopting a special needs pet?
A: Never forget to take care of yourself. Respite care is an important part of being able to care for a special needs animal long-term.
Q: What have you learned/experienced from owning a special needs pet that you wouldn’t necessary have experienced with another pet?
A: I've learned to be a proactive pet parent with Josh. Considering he can develop infections from his incontinence, or lose his independence in his wheelchair if his front limbs are overworked/sore, I've learned the importance of preventative care. The therapy he receives, along with knowing what his muscle, urine, bowel, skin "norms" are, has allowed me to detect possible issues early on and get them taken care of before they become larger issues.
Q: How did Bialy’s assist with Josh’s rehabilitation efforts?
A: Bialy's Wellness Foundation has not only financially assisted in caring for all the medical, equipment and rehabilitation needs of Josh, but foundation volunteers were actively involved through fostering and/or adopting.
Q: What would you like people to know about Bialy’s?
A: They are committed to helping all animals with special needs—not just an organization that assists dogs, but also cats, rodents, reptiles, birds, barn animals, etc. Also, it is an all-volunteer based organization, and we are always looking for volunteers to help our mission.
Bialy's Wellness Foundation provides families and rescue organizations with special needs animals the equipment, medical care, rehabilitative therapy, training, resources and support necessary to optimize the quality of life of their wonderful animals. Our mission is only possible from the generosity of our supporters.
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