Most pet owners will tell you that the relationship they have with their animals is one-of-a-kind.
But Donna Aviano and her dog Stanley have a different kind of special relationship because he's a special needs animal.
"He's my third leg," Aviano says. "Wherever I go, if I turn around there's Stanley and I feel the cold nose on my leg."
Stanley was found abandoned in a shed when he was 10 years old. The vet said the only way he had a chance of making it was if his eyes were removed because they were so sick and hardened over that they were causing him intense amounts of pain. That's why Stanley is now blind and considered a special needs dog.
Aviano adopted Stanley two years ago and in the beginning she says Stanley's limitations were easy to see.
"If I dropped my telephone or anything on the floor he'd be Velcroed to the ceiling," Aviano says. Stanley would also bump into walls and startle easily as he tried to learn his way around.
Now Stanley is comfortable playing with Aviano's other animals, like Trigger the horse and Barney the goat. Aviano says Stanley has also learned how to get around just as easily as other animals.
"He knows if I tell him, 'Watch your step,' that means he's going down," she says. "If I say, 'Watch your head,' he knows he's close to banging his nose into something and he'll stop."
Aviano warns that special needs animals aren't for everyone because they require a lot of time and effort, regardless of their need. Aviano's horse, Trigger, was abused and it took him quite a while to be comfortable with people even touching his ears.
Aviano suggests people do their research and know exactly what extra care their special needs animal will require.
"You have to be sure you're committed 100 percent to making it work," she says. And as much as Stanley has learned from her, Aviano says she's learned just as much from Stanley.
"Having a blind dog requires a great deal of patience and if it's one thing I've learned to have more of it's patience since I've had Stanley," she says.
A special relationship that now exists thanks to a dedicated Vermonter and a special little dog.
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