Meet “Pets With Disabilities,” A Home Shelter With A Mission

pwdI’m pleased to share with my readers my first ever interview with a non-feline-specific shelter dedicated to special-needs animals. Today we are talking to Pets With Disabilities, or PWD for short, a very unique place that is run by Joyce Darrell and her husband Michael Dickerson at their home in Prince Frederick, Maryland. After caring for their puppy Duke, whose puppy-hood injury left him paralyzed, Joyce and Michael opened their home to many more dogs, and the occasional cat, to provide a safe haven for these animals. They’ve expanded their home to include a very cozy barn and upgraded their house to make it suitable for dogs in wheelchairs. What’s the requirement to live with Joyce and Michael? You must be a dog who has a handicap and a good temperament. Here with us today we have Ginger, a three-legged German Shepherd who has lived at PWD for awhile and is looking for just the right home.

pets with disabilities
Ginger of PWD

Welcome, Ginger!

Thank you for having me, Crepe.

It’s Crepes, actually. Plural.

Sorry. Crepes. Those are tasty with whipped cream.

Focus, please, my canine friend.

Right. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Tell me about Pets with Disabilities.

Pets With Disabilities, or PWD for short, was established to help animals that have some sort of disability, minor or major. PWD also educates the public regarding how to deal with a pet that has recently become disabled. It is very common for owners to want to find their dog/cat another home when it becomes disabled, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  Every animal is different, and depending on their disability, will require different things.

That’s true. I, for instance, require a laptop. And what about you? I read that you lost your leg due to neglect at a shelter. How did that happen?

Yes, I am missing one of my rear legs. Losing my leg was an unfortunate incident that occurred in a shelter in Ohio. It was determined that the best option was to amputate. It does not bother me one bit, though. Bring a four-legged German Shepherd around and I bet you I will outrun her any day!

How did you come to live at PWD?

My human friends at the shelter where I lived in Ohio contacted Joyce at PWD for assistance since I needed an expensive surgery and would, in the end, have three legs instead of four. They could not afford the surgery and did not want to “put me down,” whatever that means. Joyce was very nice and agreed to accept me into her organization, and I have been here for a while. I do enjoy it here, but I’m ready to move on to my permanent home.

Tell me, is there a maximum number of dogs that can live at PWD?

It just depends. Where we live is very different than your average shelter/rescue. I live in a “barn” that is finished with nice floors, painted walls, and climate control. There are six “apartments,” each of which is furnished with a kuranda dog bed, fresh blankets, toys, and a bucket of water. There are windows throughout the barn which keeps it very bright, and a soft radio played throughout the day. It’s as close to home-living as you could ask for!

Pets with disabilities barn
Inside the barn at PWD

The softly playing radio sounds lovely. I try to turn on iTunes sometimes but my mom FOD just tells me to get my butt off the keyboard. What about room service? 

We even get room service several times a day, where nice people come and let us out to play, and when we are done we come back and our beds are made, our water is refilled, and there are dog bones laying on our beds. It’s AMAZING!

How many dogs are currently residing in the barn?

There are nine of us looking for homes that reside at the PWD Barn. The maximum number would probably be 12-15 depending on types of dogs. Some of us are able to co-reside if we get along well with each other.

I hear that there are also some sanctuary dogs that have been chosen to stay with Joyce and Michael permanently. Tell me about them.

The sanctuary dogs live in the house up the hill. Joyce and Michael care for them around the clock. I’ve seen several of them in wheelchairs. It looks kind of fun, I think! They fly up and down the hills! The wheelchair dogs require extra maintenance and Joyce and Michael built their house with these dogs in mind. They have ramps for them to go up and down, and an area specifically designed for them to live in. It is amazing!

Joyce and Michael with their Dogs

And the sanctuary dogs live in the house with Joyce and Michael?

Yes, I’ve counted ten that live with Joyce, and they all have a disability of some kind. My friend Huey is Deaf, Megan is Blind, Casey has three legs, Pierce has club feet, several wheelchair dogs… She has her hands full up there, and she still manages to care for us so well!

Where do you get the wheelchairs for the dogs? Do they have to be custom-made? Are they donated?

We have many wheelchairs that have been donated to the organization by people. We usually customize the wheelchairs onsite for my wheelchair bound pals.

Tell me, in what capacity does PWD work with cats.

The barn is not set up for cats, but I know there is one living upstairs in the office of the barn. PWD has rescued a handful of cats with disabilities, including 3-legged cats, cats missing an eye, cats with FIV or Feline Leukemia. They are placed in foster homes, if they’re available. Also,  PWD courtesy posts animals around the country that have disabilities and who are looking for another home. This includes both cats and dogs.

ginger at pwd
Ginger, ready for action

How can people most help PWD continue their mission?

PWD relies on donations from nice people in order to help continue their mission and vision.  Because all of us here have some kind of disability, our medical bills are high. When my leg was amputated, it cost $1500 at the specialty hospital. If kind people did not donate, I would not be here today, and I just can’t think about that right now. I appreciate everyone that gives to PWD.

Is there anything you want the public to know about that I haven’t mentioned?

Joyce and Michael are amazing people who have created a unique organization. I feel like one special dog to be here. I know Joyce gets hundreds of requests daily from the public to take their animals, so those of us that actually made it here are lucky. I thank them with all of my heart. Oh, my, I’m getting all sentimental, when Im supposed to be “tough.” Sorry!

That’s, OK, Ginger. I know how you feel. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today.


Pets With Disabilities is doing great things for injured animals. If your pet suddenly becomes handicapped, please don’t give away your friend. Contact Joyce and Michael, and perhaps they can help you plan a way to keep your family together. If you were as touched as I was by PWD, please consider a donation. All those needy pups would certainly appreciate it.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.