In this paper, we explore how caretakers experience living with disabled companion animals. Drawing on interviews, as well as narratives on websites and other support groups, we examine ways in which caretakers describe the lives of animals they live with, and their various disabilties. The animals were mostly dogs, plus a few cats, with a range of physical disabilities; almost all had been rehomed, often from places specializing in homing disabled animals.
Three themes emerged from analysis of these texts: first, respondents drew heavily on the common narrative of disabled individuals as heroes, often noted in disability rights literature – while simultaneously drawing on, and challenging, ideas of disability as incapacity. The second theme was love and empathy. Several of our interviewees spoke of empathy being enhanced thro
We discuss these caretakers' stories of animal disability in relation to both studies of human-animal relationships, and to disability rights, as well as to ideas about what constitutes care. What these narratives emphasize is a particular sense of sharing and reciprocity, felt through the body, especially when caretakers spoke of their own ill-health. They saw disability – the animals' or their own – not as limiting, but as enabling both to flourish within caring relationships
Recommended CitationBirke, Lynda and Gruen, Lori, Mutual Rescue: Disabled Animals and Their Caretakers, Animal Studies Journal, 11(1), 2022, 37-62.
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