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Owning a handicapped pet can be challenging. They require much care but can also be some of the most loving, impressive companions. You might sometimes feel you’re not doing enough for your extra-special animal friend, but owners of handicapped pets can draw inspiration from para-athletes who overcome daily obstacles.
Here are some lessons to inspire hope and confidence in your pet-parenting abilities.
Everyone is Born with the Same Potential
If your pet was born with a disability, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to participate in fun activities. Your pet doesn’t know they are different and can thrive if you nurture their needs. The same goes for humans.
Matt Stutzman was born without arms, but that didn’t stop him from becoming an expert archer. As the self-proclaimed “Armless Archer,” he became the world record holder for the longest accurate shot.
He was adopted at a year old and said his parents taught him that the impossible was just a state of mind. Stutzman went on to win a silver medal for Team USA.
Jerome Singleton was born with a partial tibia and became a below-the-knee amputee as a toddler. He’s since excelled in athletics, becoming a top football player in South Carolina.
He’s also an impressive academic with degrees in industrial engineering design, mathematics and applied physics.
Trischa Zorn is the most accomplished Paralympian, with 41 individual gold medals and 55 medals in total. She was born blind, but that didn’t stop her from establishing an impressive swimming career.
In 2012, she took her place in the International Paralympic Committee Hall of Fame.
Tatyana McFadden, also known as “The Beast,” won 11 Paralympic medals by age 26, becoming one of the best wheelchair athletes. McFadden was born with spina bifida and was paralyzed from the waist down. Her parents adopted her from a Russian orphanage. McFadden became the youngest athlete on the 2004 Paralympic team. Aside from wheelchair racing in the summer, she competed in winter as a cross-country skier, winning a silver medal.
In high school, McFadden had to fight to race. Officials said her racing chair was a hazard and an unfair advantage, leading her to race in “wheelchair events” by herself. She successfully fought the school to compete on the track with her team. Her lawsuit led to the passage of the Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act or “Tatyana’s Law.”
What to Remember
The efforts of these athletes have made incredible strides in ensuring both recognition and respect for people of all types, and this continues even today. The upcoming 2024 Paris Paralympics are expected to further promote inclusivity and the need for adaptive facilities.
These athletes show the power of pursuing your goals even if your actions go against what society deems healthy or normal. They’re not just competing — they’re winning. It turns out you don’t need arms for archery, eyes for swimming or legs for racing. Your pet might not have all of their paws, hearing or eyesight. Giving them the right support and encouragement is all they need.
Adaptation Is Possible
It’s normal to worry if an illness or injury alters your pet’s body. They’ve had experience with body parts or abilities they no longer have, but many adapt to thrive. Maybe they heard of these incredible para-athletes who didn’t let similar circumstances break them.
Nick Springer got a poor prognosis after contracting a rare form of meningitis as a teenager. When he woke up after two months in a medically-induced coma, he was missing his arms and legs. Springer, who used to play hockey, had to relearn how to do previously simple tasks like eating or getting dressed.
“My family made a point of showing me my life was not over,” he told CBS News in 2012. “It was more of a time out.”
That support paid off, and Springer took up rugby. He entered the Paralympics less than a decade after his amputations and helped Team USA win gold and bronze medals. Springer passed away unexpectedly in 2021, but his endurance and strength leave a mighty legacy.
Brad Snyder was a swim team captain at the U.S. Naval Academy before losing his sight in an IED explosion. He became a Paralympic swimmer, winning six gold medals in 2012 and 2016. He then switched to the triathlon and qualified for Tokyo, becoming the first American man in the Paralympic or Olympic games to win the gold medal.
When your pet is different from others in their species, you will have to explain their condition and what they are capable of. People may overanalyze or not appreciate your pet’s abilities. However, they are often willing to help you and your friend when needed.
Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli
When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, it seemed that these two Paralympic athletes wouldn’t make it to Tokyo. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons stated that the committee found out they couldn’t compete just two weeks before the opening ceremonies.
The result was a global outcry that let Khudadadi and Rasouli evacuate from Kabul to Paris, where they got a flight to the Games.
Rasouli was the victim of an explosion that led to a hand amputation before competing in the long jump. Competitor Roderick Townsend was thrilled to see his name at the competition.
“I saw his name on there. With everything going on right now, I couldn’t help but feel joy for him,” he told the BBC in 2021.
Zakia Khudadadi is the first female taekwondo practitioner from Afghanistan. She was born with a disability affecting her left arm. After competing in 2021, she won the gold medal at the 2023 European Para Championships, saying she won for the women of Afghanistan.
What to Remember
Life is harder for people living in a world built for the majority. However, you can have faith that people will support you and your pet when you need it if you reach out.
Taking Inspiration from Para-Athletes
Para-athletes are amazing, and though your handicapped pet isn’t human, they can still live full, thriving lives. Let these stories inspire you to