When Krysten Harper decided to adopt the first pet that would be hers and hers alone, she knew it had to be an extra special animal. But she wasn’t on the lookout for the characteristics you might be thinking of.
Rather than searching for the cutest dog or the most intelligent or playful one, she decided to look for one with special needs – whether that be a senior animal, a tripod, or just a pet that nobody else wanted. Her mom and her sister helped her comb the internet in search of the perfect furry companion.
Krysten’s sister is the one who finally found Little Buddy on Pet Finder.
“He was listed as a blind and deaf double merle, and none of us knew what a double merle was, but I saw his picture […] with one little ear up and one ear down floppy, and he had his tongue hanging out of his mouth,” Krysten recalls. “I looked at that picture and I just knew that was my dog. I was going to do whatever it took to get my dog.”
“Merle” refers to a mottled or dappled coloring pattern in certain breeds that is very popular and therefore expensive. Breeding two merles together is an irresponsible choice some breeders make out of greed or ignorance in the hopes of getting a higher ratio of merle puppies, but each of those puppies will have a 25% chance of being a double merle, which often results in health problems such as blindness and deafness.
When Krysten, who works from home in IT solutions, first took in Little Buddy, she describes him as a “little ball of anxiety.” He had developed arthritis and muscle atrophy from being confined to a kennel for nearly 2.5 years. He had limited vision and refused to go outside to potty at nighttime. He slept in corners and burrowed into tight spaces where he felt safe.
“It was not easy. I cried, he cried. I think we all cried those first few months,” Krysten says.
It didn’t take Little Buddy too long, however, to begin getting accustomed to Krysten’s structured work-from-home routine, and he soon began to truly enjoy his life again. He loves everything from walks to just lying on the couch.
Last summer, Krysten moved from her one-bedroom apartment to a house and got the backyard fenced in for Little Buddy’s safety. It was then that she knew she was ready for another special-needs dog. This time, she waited for one to come across her path, and she was awestruck when she found a puppy who looked exactly like she imagined Little Buddy probably had as a pup. And again, she knew immediately this was her dog.
Aster Rose, who is completely blind and deaf, was also the result of irresponsible breeding and was brought with her sister to the vet to be euthanized. Luckily, the vet saved the sisters’ lives.
“There’s a myth that blind and deaf dogs can’t have a good life, and people feel bad for them. And I do understand that to some extent. But having lived with blind and deaf dogs now for three years, they can lead amazing lives,” says Krysten. “And the vet knew that, so the vet contacted rescues until they found a rescue that would take in Aster and her sister.”
Now Aster, Little Buddy, Krysten, and their two cats, Teddy and Goose, are one big happy family.
“Aster loves little buddy. She follows him everywhere. She wants to be wherever he is,” says Krysten. “She thinks Little Buddy is just a magical unicorn. She thinks he absolutely hung the moon, and he does love her. He likes her. He plays with her. He licks her. He makes sure her ears are clean. But there are also times when he gets tired of her puppy energy and he needs a break, so that is what I do. They have time apart every single day.”
Krysten says the obstacles she’s faced with Aster are not usually because of her blindness, but rather because she’s still an Aussie puppy, less than a year old. She’s a high-energy animal who constantly wants to play and be outside and explore new things.
“She thinks everybody loves her. Everybody’s a friend that she just hasn’t made yet.”
Krysten has planned her life around her pets. She keeps a stable routine, and she can tell it throws the dogs off when she has to break that routine. She even avoids travel if she can’t bring her babies with her, and she tracks their movement with collars when she can’t be with them, even though they mostly choose to sleep while she’s gone.
“I say it kind of joking, but kind of not,” she says. “If my dogs can’t go, there’s a good chance I won’t go. I plan travel around them. I try to find dog-friendly hotels. And now that we have Aster, we haven’t really gone anywhere.”
Krysten uses touch signals to communicate with the blind-and-deaf duo, but the pair still do run into things occasionally – especially Aster, since she has no sight at all but has so much energy.
“Just this morning, I was vacuuming and, oh my gosh, she ran into the vacuum like 4 different times,” laughs Krysten. “I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, baby, are you okay?’ And she’s already off doing more zoomies. She doesn’t care.”
Walks are a similarly chaotic situation. Little Buddy is good at walking because he has some eyesight, but Aster is another story.
“She’s miss independent. She does not like to be confined to a harness. She likes to be naked, and she much prefers to run around in the backyard,” Krysten explains. “She can’t see anything, so she doesn’t know what a straight line is. Bless her heart, she’s just constantly weaving into stuff and bumping into Little Buddy, and she bumps into me. So I have to keep her on a very, very short leash so that Little Buddy can still enjoy his time. But she’s getting much better.”
Krysten hopes someday she’ll have Aster trained well enough that she can take the dogs hiking, go to PetSmart, let them play in the creek, and have other adventures.
Krysten says lots of people have told her that she’s a good person for adopting special needs animals, but she insists that she’s the lucky one. She takes her inspiration from a rescue she follows, which once thanked her on social media for “not being afraid to love something different.”
“I am so fortunate to have them,” Krysten says. “Don’t feel bad for these dogs, because these dogs can lead full lives. I love dogs that are a little bit different than others.”
We hope this story inspires you not to be afraid to “love something different.” Every shelter pet deserves a loving home, no matter their differences.Whizzco