The adventure of having a handicapped dog

We have been fostering dogs and finding new homes for them since 2015. When we were looking for another foster dog in February, one caught our attention. This little boy was missing a front paw and we were told that this would make it hard for him to find a forever home. But why is it like that?

When we made a decision in favour of this very special foster dog we were scared of the challenge this might become. We were unsure about the things that need to be taken care of, what a handicapped dog needs, what he can do and where his disabilities lie. How can we manage the four-story staircase to our flat, how long can we go for walkies and what can we do to make sure he’s doing well? We were completely inexperienced in that matter and needed to learn from this dog. There was only one thing we were certain about: that we would do anything for this little boy and that we would start this adventure as relaxed as can be.

Mateo and his sister on the island of Crete

When the little boy named Mateo finally arrived at our place we quickly came to realize that he didn’t know that he was different from other dogs. Even Sammy and Yuna treated him like any other dog. He does not need anyone to pity him, since he doesn’t really suffer from his condition. Mateo hasn’t been able to collect many positive moments until he came to us. He was found in a pile of garbage close to a highway together with his sister. Veterinarians confirmed that he wasn’t born without that paw. There is some scar tissue indicating that he must have lost it due to an accident. You wouldn’t be abe to tell if you met him. He is the least complicated and friendliest dog we’ve ever met. He opened up to us pretty quickly and came out to be a happy puppy who loves and enjoys life. One of the downsides of having a handicapped dog by your side are definitely people you meet outside who think differently. People will approach you and ask about him or start mumbling in the distance or even worse: when they spot Mateo, they go “Awww, the poor Boy!”

Mateo’s first visit to the lake

We are living in an achievement-oriented society which often influences the choices we make when it comes down to dogs. They need to look as perfect as possible, win prizes for us and be efficiently awesome. Of course we know that a handicapped dog does not fit with every lifestyle but that doesn’t make them a less good partner or family member. There are no perfect people and there are no perfect dogs. But there are people and dogs who fit perfectly and this is not defined by a missing paw. Mateo was able to be with us, no matter if we went for a hike, bike trips or a day at the lake. A handcart, bike trailer and live vest make everything possible and are suitable for daily life. Neither us nor our dogs needed to step back for Mateo. Recently there are lots of possibilities to build prosthetic supports or wheelchairs for handicapped dogs. We were completely baffled by how quickly Mateo got accustomed to his prosthetis and started running through the fields!

These two months with mateo have taken our concerns about the challenge of having a handicapped dog completely. We were able to rid ourselves of all fears and doubts and know now that these dogs are completely normal dogs and that a disability is something that might happen to every human and animal alike. A handicap is no reason to put a dog down. They have a strong will to live and grow accustomed to new situations quickly. They accept their handicap and make the best of it!

We are so grateful that Mateo showed us what is important when one provides a home for a dog. There are many handicapped dogs having a hard time finding a new home. We hope that Mateo’s journey with us was able too take some people’s fear of handicapped dogs. He was able to take ours with his gentle and happy nature in no time!


We can honestly say that we will welcome the next dog who joins our family forever, handicap or not!

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