ALPENA - From her time working in a veterinarian clinic Crystal Hollingsworth knows how difficult it can be to find quality homes for animals swith special needs, one where they can get the love and attention they deserve. That is one of the reasons she and her husband Gary decided to adopt Mr. Julius, a puppy that was 100 percent blind and deaf.
The Hollingsworths and their other pets have provided the love and patience Mr. Julius needed to overcome many of his obvious limitations and are now sharing their experience with others in hope other special needs animals can also find homes.
Mr. Julius is a shepherd born with no eyes and no hearing ability. Although his sense of touch and scent have been heightened, he faces many challenges normal dogs don't. Hollingsworth said she is amazed at how the dog has adapted to his new family and how the dog and his owner have learned from one another in order to communicate. She said a gentle tap on the dog's rear will encourage him to sit, and brushing the fur on his neck forward signals him to move or walk.
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Crystal and Gary Hollingsworth take Mr. Julius for a walk through Bay View Park Tuesday. Mr. Julius was born blind and deaf and is still learning to walk with a leash. When the dog gets spooked while walking he retreats into the stroller for the return trip home. The couple said caring for a special needs animal requires patience and dedication, but the bond that is built is unlike any other.
"He was helpless and homeless and we wanted to give him a home. We knew it would be challenging and had concerns about potty training, but we have been very lucky in the fact that he is very smart." Hollingsworth said. "We have had to learn to read his body language and the signs he shows us as to what his immediate needs are and we have learned right along with him. There is no other way to do it. It will always be a challenge but we have learned his habits and work around them."
After being thrust into a new home and not being able to see its environment, it took some time for the dog and the Hollingsworths to adjust. Mr. Julius now knows the layout of the home and the yard and is a valued member of the family. He is learning to walk on a leash and is socializing better and the couple said they have other goals set for him. The dog received help from others. however. as the couple's three other dogs realized quickly their new roommate needed assistance and helped him the best they could.
"I don't know how he does half of what he does. He surprises us all of the time," Gary Hollingsworth said. "When he came home he knew absolutely nothing and the cats and the other dogs sort of looked at him and could sense there was something different about him. Mr. Julius has used the other dogs as almost like leader dogs. He will touch them and they will sort of navigate him through the house when he has to go through doorways, up or down the stairs, or go long distances. This was early on and he gets along on his own now, but the other animals really helped teach him those things. I think having other animals of the same species in the house really helped."
Now that Mr. Julius is settled into his home he enjoys going for his daily walk. He spends some time learning to walk on the leash, but when gets spooked, he gets a ride the rest of the way in a baby stroller, which Gary refers to as Mr. Julius' Cadillac.
The Hollingsworths are now making an effort to educate others on how special needs animals are capable of being good pets and to encourage people to adopt or foster one.
"We didn't adopt him and do any of this for notoriety," Crystal said. "Our ultimate goal is for him to make a difference in the lives of other animals and to let people know what can happen when you dedicate your time and make a commitment to an animal like Mr. Julius. They can be just as much a part of your family as a dog that can see and hear. If one animal like him gets adopted out of a shelter than it will be worth it. He's happy and he makes us happy and I want people to give special needs animals a chance to do the same for someone else."
A Facebook page has been created called Mr. Julius - Our Blind, Deaf Pup and videos of the dog at home and outside are posted often. Crystal said she hopes animal shelters and veterinarians share the videos so people can see how Mr. Julius continues to develop and hopefully decide to adopt a special needs animal themselves.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com