Watch the dogs frolic in this video, and at first glance, all you see are pups having a good time. But look closely as you see them chase bubbles and lick popsicles and you'll notice that many of the dogs have special needs.
All the dogs in the video are former or present fosters of Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue, a rescue group in the Nashville, Tennessee, area. The rescue group, which has been around for about a decade, helps relieve pressure on area shelters by taking in dogs that adopters might ignore due to their age, appearance or medical issues. This group takes in some healthy dogs, but the real focus is on seniors, hospice, medical and special needs, says founder and director Shawn South-Aswad.
"When it comes to medical conditions, there isn't much we haven't seen or dealt with," South-Aswad says, listing the extensive medical conditions the group has dealt with in foster dogs.
Currently, there are several dogs dealing with cardiac issues including congestive heart failure, as well as multiple cancer patients including some with extremely rare disorders like cancer of the sweat glands. They have paralyzed dogs and those with spina bifida, several that have been hit by cars and are going through orthopedic surgeries, diabetics, blind and deaf dogs, many with heartworms and those with renal failure, seizure disorders, neurological conditions, congenital issues, chronic lung disease and amputees.
"And a multitude of extreme seniors over the age of 15 dealing with the typical senior medical problems," she says. "And that's just what is in the program currently; not what we have had in the past!"
There's no physical shelter for the rescue; it's 100 percent dependent on fosters who care for the dogs. While healthy dogs are generally adopted within six weeks of entering the program, medical cases can take much longer. There are typically more than 100 dogs in the program at one time, with about 85 percent of them having special needs or medical conditions. Around 400 dogs are brought in to Snooty Giggles each year.
Hoping to raise awareness for special needs dogs everywhere, South-Aswad collaborated with singer/songwriter Jen Foster for the video, which has been viewed more than 418,000 times on Facebook.
"Jen had written this song that spoke not only such a perfect message for special needs dogs, but for every living thing trying to find its way in this world that's 'not so different,' but sometimes feels like it just doesn't belong," South-Aswad says.
Many of the dogs in the video are forever fosters or hospice fosters, but those that were available for adoption have all been placed in forever homes since the video went public.
"My hope is that the video continues to be shared and viewed and that slowly, we take away the fear of loving a special needs dogs so that more can be saved all over the country," South-Aswad says.
"People can help by getting involved. If you can't foster a special needs or a medical case dog, then get involved with a rescue that does and offer volunteer support using whatever talents you might have. If you want to help financially, that's great too, because there is absolutely no rescue out there that is financially secure, ever."
Wumbo was brought to the vet by his breeder at 5 weeks old to be euthanized because he couldn't use his back legs. The rescue took him in, and now the tenacious pup uses a cart to get around. (Photo: Snooty Giggles Dog Rescue)