Adopted Dog with Special Needs Is Living Life to the Fullest

A spinal cord injury isn’t slowing Noodle down — or her family.

Bree + Noodle

Adopting a dog with a spinal cord injury seemed like a big challenge for Bree. But life with Noodle ended up being more active than she ever would’ve imagined.

"To have a pet accessing the outdoors with freedom is a small way to show that the outdoors should be adaptable for all."

Adopted Dog Noodle

Two years ago we pondered adopting a special needs puppy, Noodle, who had a spinal cord injury. Our friends were understandably concerned because we live a rather active lifestyle of hiking, camping, biking, and so forth. Concern that our life would be varied, altered and changed surrounded us as well. We knew if we adopted Noodle, we would use the knowledge we have as physical therapists to adapt her abilities, fitting any level of activity she desired. We were also ready to accept there may be some sacrifice in what we could accomplish outdoors and on a daily basis. What we did not realize is that this dog would vary our activities, alter our adventures and change our lifestyle — but for the better.

Adopted Dog Noodle

Our activities have greater variety because we are more active than ever. Together, we are busy volunteering and meeting amazing new people all around the Northwest. Because of Noodle, we have begun volunteering at a local camp for children with special needs. They get to meet Noodle, toss a Frisbee for her, and learn about how she achieves a happy life with wheels. We have met people with spinal cord injuries and other special needs. Noodle is a catalyst to talk about different ways to adapt and live their best lives.

Adopted Dog Noodle

Our adventures have been greatly altered. We still enjoy the outdoors by hiking, camping, skiing and so on, but now we do it with adaptable equipment for Noodle. We had the luck to film an outdoor adventure with Noodle alongside The Dodo. The video helped to inspire others to continue adventuring with their dogs. To have a pet accessing the outdoors with freedom is a small way to show that the outdoors should be adaptable for all. We were able to write blogs for Ruffwear, Washington Trails Association and Washington State Parks discussing how humans with special needs may access the outdoors more effectively. These opportunities have encouraged me to try writing occasional stories on social media to highlight people we have met that are specially-abled but conquering their adaptations and living a life outdoors.

Adopted Dog Noodle

Our lifestyle has changed in great ways. We never thought we would influence others to adopt dogs, yet we hear about people being inspired to adopt pets because they heard Noodle’s story. We are asked to attend dog adoption events, provide advice for other people with special needs pets, and are recognized on the trail by strangers who remember seeing Noodle.

We hope that the life Noodle lives not only makes us brighter together, but makes others’ lives brighter too. In big and small ways, we strive to not only share but show how being adaptable is truly the secret to life for all of us. We are brighter together because Noodle has opened doors for us to be advocates of dog adoption, advocates of adapting for humans and animals to live their best life, and advocates for the outdoors as something that everyone can (and should!) enjoy.

Each year, the Petco Foundation invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Bree won Everett Animal Shelter in Everett, Washington a 2019 Holiday Wishes award.