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Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them.

Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them

Edited by Mary A. Shafer


If you aren't a big fan of furry, four-legged critters, you will be by the time you finish this book. You may even take the advice of Mary Shafer, who compiled this stirring collection of stories by 11 contributors from three countries, and vow to adopt a "less than perfect" pet.

The catalyst for Almost Perfect is Shafer's own experience with Idgie, a blind cat named after the spunky female character from the book-turned-movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. In addition to her visual challenge, the fearless feline defies a diagnosis of incurable feline leukemia. Like Idgie, the rest of the animals featured in this book "just accept their circumstances and get on with it" with "no pity parties, no drama," writes Shafer. They often do this despite heartbreaking mistreatment and newly-acquired disabilities due to injury or illness.

Take, for example, the black-and-white "tuxedo" cat whose back legs are paralyzed. In "My Tuesdays With Tux," author Susan Bertrand at first feels sorry for this feline with special needs--until she brings him home from the animal shelter and witnesses him exploring her back yard with childlike curiosity and enthusiasm. Tux is perpetually surprised and delighted by the world around him, a trait we would all do well to have.

Then there's Colbi, an Alaskan husky puppy who cannot see and struggles to overcome his fear of touch. He also learns to navigate snow, which presents a stark contrast to his familiar terrain. "Colbi doesn't realize that he's disabled," writes Joyce GrantSmith, his adoptive owner. "He only perceives possibilities, not limitations. He figures life is pretty darned good."

So does Ruby, a half-Labrador retriever, half-doberman pinscher with degenerative myelopathy, a muscle-destroying disease similar to multiple sclerosis in humans. Rolling on wheels after her hind legs fail to work, Ruby inspires us with her joyful attitude and her eagerness to jump right in when she sees other pooches playing Frisbee.

One of the book's most poignant stories centers around Pink, a Mexican hairless dog whose damaged, painful legs have to be amputated. This turn of events is especially hard on her owner Sharon Sakson, who, because of her fibromyalgia, has counted on Pink as a service companion. Sakson, however, ends up learning a great deal from the way Pink adapts to her condition. "[Dogs] don't hold grudges," she writes. "If they get burned by the stove, they learn not to touch the stove again, but they don't get mad at the stove."

While most of the essays focus on cats and dogs, Shafer does include one about Cagney, a rat with paraplegia who has no muscle tone in his hindquarters, preventing him from moving the way he should. Like the other animals in this book, Cagney is affectionate, unstoppable, and totally lovable.

Billed as the first book of its kind to focus solely on stories about pets with disabilities and their human companions, Almost Perfect is filled with perfectly wonderful reminders about why we should all try to live life to the fullest, no matter our circumstances.

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Author:Henderson, Nancy
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Book review
Date:May 1, 2009
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