You probably remember that last month we congratulated the winners of the 2016 Handicapped Pets Calendar contest. What you don’t know is how that announcement changed the life of one of the winners named Tom Turkey. Tom is a specially-abled black Lab puppy who was rescued by the Humane Society of West Montana and living at their shelter. But since becoming a calendar guy, this friendly, paralyzed dog has found his forever home. And the best news is his new pet mom is a dedicated member of the Lessons From A Paralyzed Dog community.
Last year around Thanksgiving, Tom Turkey and his two littermates Pumpkin Pie and Green Bean were brought to the Humane Society of West Montana. All three puppies suffer from an undiagnosed neurological disease and a seizure disorder. Pumpkin and Green Bean were recently adopted so the rescue group decided to enter Tom into the calendar contest to help him get some publicity.
The group thought Tom was the perfect contestant because of his sweet disposition with people and the gentle way he played with the other animals at the shelter. The group had already given Tom the honor of being called their “shelter ambassador” where he made lots of public appearances on behalf of the Humane Society.
Tracey Fowler, whose dog Hayden also won a spot on the calendar contest, saw Tom Turkey’s picture and decided to call the rescue group for details. Tracey has been an advocate for disabled dogs since Hayden got sick with Degenerative Myelopathy. When he passed away in February she adopted two paralyzed dogs – Little Heath and Kenny. Sadly Kenny passed away suddenly from another health issue and the loss left a hole in Tracey’s heart.
When she saw Tom’s picture she knew she wanted him to join the family.
The next challenge was getting Tom from Missoula Montana to Vermont where Tracey lives. The Humane Society put out the word about the situation and three special donors who knew about Tom’s good work in Missoula stepped forward to help. Last week Tom Turkey boarded a private plane along with representatives from the rescue group and flew 2,400 miles to his new home.
Tracey kept track of Tom during the entire flight. She knew when the plane stopped to refuel and she was at the gate waiting for Tom when he landed seven hours later.
After a flurry of reporters took pictures of Tom, the volunteers from the Humane Society of Western Montana said a bittersweet goodbye and Tracey took Tom home to meet his housemates.
“I love him to pieces,” said Tracey. “He is so sweet and loving and very much a puppy. He’s settling into the family and this morning he played with my dog George.”
Tracey also told me that Tom’s supporters sent so many toys with him that she asked if they would mind if she donated some to the local humane society in Vermont. The donation is one example of the generous spirit I’ve seen in Tracey since getting to know her.
I am confident that Tracey will do a wonderful job with Tom Turkey and give him the best chance possible for a good life.
Caveat: Neither Tracey nor I want to sugarcoat Tom’s story, especially if you are considering the adoption of a specially-abled pet. Like other dogs with handicaps, Tom’s paralysis is extensive and affects his daily life. It will take many hours of hard work from a dedicated pet parent to take care of him.