Special foster mom cares for special needs dog

Kastle is a "double merle" blind and deaf Labradoodle puppy.

Allow me to introduce you to a special member of the Bay Village community, Zoe Johnson. Zoe stepped up to the challenges of fostering a blind and deaf puppy for Vermilion-based dog rescue Safe Harbor.

“What a blessing when I met Zoe and what she has done for our organization and this dog,” said Micci Plavin Price, CEO of Safe Harbor.

Zoe has opened her heart and home for over 20 years to abandoned, abused and misunderstood dogs and cats.

“Once you get started it’s almost impossible to say no to rescue when it comes to a helpless animal," Zoe said. "I just really want to help each one to have the best life possible with a new family ... although I’ve failed and had to keep a couple for myself!”

Zoe’s passion and commitment was started by a golden retriever puppy named Dozer who had a broken tail and the breeder wanted to put the pup to sleep. Dozer became a family pet and the rest is history. She welcomed other special needs, abandoned and senior cats and dogs like Hailey, Holly and Pete, and gave them a safe and nurturing home until they could be adopted and felt safe, loved and at peace.

Kastle, Zoe's latest foster, is a "merle on merle" blind and deaf Labradoodle puppy.

Double merle dogs, those that are created when two dogs with the same merle coat pattern are bred together, are highly likely to suffer from hearing and vision impairments and in some cases complete blindness and deafness. Deafness and hearing impairment happens due to the lack of hair pigment produced in the inner ear. Double merles can also be blind or have vision problems due to congenital eye defects.

Although his learning curve has been challenging, Kastle is playful and lovable. He does follow the other dogs. When he doesn’t, his pal Holly politely nudges him. He is learning with consistency, touch, and patience and the other family pets are guiding him. Zoe’s mom instinct and staying off Google have been a huge help in teaching him communication skills and building his confidence.

When asked about her vision for rescue animals, Zoe wishes animals had more rights. That people purchasing pets would always consider a rescue from a reputable shelter or group. That stronger laws and ordinances were in place. That more qualified inspectors were able to enforce the closure of unfit puppy mills and their practices. Finally, that more people did research on designer breeds.

“So much work still needs to be done in animal welfare,” Zoe said.

Thank you, Zoe and Kastle, for sharing your story and being part of our community. To adopt and help pets like Kastle and others, visit safeharboranimalrescue.org.

Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown

Owner, Hot Diggity Dog, Inc.

Blog writer for Ohio Pet Expert

Advocate for lost, stolen and injured pets

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:49 AM, 12.21.2021