Note: This story first appeared in the mental health issue of Grayson Magazine.

For many pets looking for a second chance, adoption and rescue organizations provide an opportunity in finding a forever home. For some animals, however, it can be difficult finding a family willing and able to help those animals with special needs, ranging from behavioral issues to medical concerns.

For Karen Spykes, who volunteers with the Denison Animal Welfare Group, the decision to adopt not one but three dogs with special needs started by acting as a foster family for the animals.

“I have three dogs and they are all from DAWG,” Spykes said. “They all started as fosters because I didn’t think they would be able to be adopted. I found myself drawn to these dogs that I didn’t think could find a home. Little did I know, they would worm their way into my heart.”

Spykes’ first special needs dog is Libby, who she believes may have suffered abuse from a previous owner. When Libby first arrived at her new home, Spykes said she acted extremely anxious around people and wouldn’t leave her crate.

“She got along really well with my dog, but would never let me pet her,” she said. “As soon as a person walked outside, she would stop and just watch (them).”

In the years since the adoption Spykes said Libby has calmed down, but still shows some anxiety, especially around men. Despite her time in a loving environment, Libby has just started to let Spykes’ husband, Eddie, pet her.

Much like Libby, Spykes said she was not certain of her second dog’s background, but believed Corky had been hit by a car. Corky, an otherwise friendly dog, appeared to have a broken leg and had mobility issues that required surgery and therapy.

“I think Corky might have been adopted fairly easily because he is sociable,” she said.

Emma, Spykes’ third foster, may have also been abused by a previous owner, but scars and other injuries lead her to believe Emma may have been involved in dog fighting. In addition to scars on her head, Emma also seems to have suffered an eye injury at some point.

For Spykes, the key trait an adopter needs is the patience to work through any issues an animal might have.

“It takes some dogs longer to adjust than most people,” she said. “One might come in and be comfortable in your home in a month, and for another it could take years.”

Still, she advocates that prospective pet parent give animals with special needs a second chance at finding a forever home.

“All dogs are perfect dogs,” she said. “Just because they have problem(s) doesn’t make them imperfect. They will still love you unconditionally.”