Bialy's Wellness Foundation

Helping Special Needs Animals

Preparing yourself. Items to think about before fostering or adopting a special needs pet.

I don't claim to be an expert in caring for special needs animals but I sure did learn a lot from Bialy in little over 1.5 years I spent with her. Recently I consulted with a rescue that took into their program their first paralyzed dog. Not knowing much, they reached out for help and I was happy to talk with the head of the rescue as well as potential adopters about my experience. Below is a list of topics to think about if you should decide to care for a paralyzed animal:

  • Respite care. It is imperative that you have a plan for relief. Taking care of a special needs animal can be taxing physically, mentally and emotionally. Find a great daycare or pet sitter that can watch your pet for a day or weekend. Ask a pet savvy friend or relative to spend the day with your furry friend. YOU WILL BURN OUT. Get some help and take time for yourself. 
  • Medical care/UTIs. Paralyzed animals become very prone to urinary tract infections. Having a dietary bladder supplement can be helpful and regular veterinary care to test urine may become part of your regimen. If your pet is in diapers, make sure they are always clean and dry. Paralyzed animals can also get urine burns and develop open wounds or sores on their rear end or limbs from "scooting" or "dragging."
  • Alternative therapies. It may not be necessary but it is often highly recommended for your pet to receive physical therapy, hydrotherapy, laser therapy, or massage therapy etc to help your pet maintain a healthy physical body. Compensatory muscles can become overworked quickly and need help recovering. This is important to factor in when considering expenses. 
  • Behavior/Training. Depending on your pet's condition, there may be pain or sensitive areas on your pet's body. Unfortunately if they are paralyzed the "flight" portion of the "fight or flight" scenario diminishes so they often only given an option to "fight." Working with a positive reinforcement trainer, behaviorist or veterinarian may be necessary.
  • Equipment. For those pets who are incontinent or do not have control over their bladder or bowels, diapers, belly bands, potty pads may be needed. A wheelchair can help with mobility issues and there are some great supplies out there like toe grips, braces, and special harnesses to help with your pet's mobility.

 Erin and Bialy on her adoption day.

Erin and Bialy on her adoption day.

Erin Kowalski is the founder of Bialy's Wellness Foundation and was Bialy's mom. She owns AURA Natural Pet and is a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist, Reiki Practitioner and always seeking and sharing knowledge to optimize the quality of life of our pets. Erin is currently attaining certification in Animal Loss and Grief Support Counseling. She and her husband, Will reside in Chicago with their 12 year old chocolate labrador, Zeus and the foster puppy frequenting their home.

All About Cole



Cole was only 6-weeks old when he was dropped off at Chicago Animal Care and Control. He didn’t stand a chance. Cole is a pitbull, of which an estimated 7% in large cities (in this case, Los Angeles; study by Animal People) make it out of similar situations, and was missing his two front limbs. His nubs ended in open wounds and his back-left foot, now having only 3 full toes, was infected. A lost, lonely, and counted-out Cole was being walked to the euthanization room when a local rescue, Rescue Warriors, spotted him on their way out. They saved Cole’s life.

Kimmy and I had previously foster-failed through Rescue Warriors and had just moved into our first apartment together, which gave us the freedom to continue to foster. We saw Cole on Facebook the day he was rescued, but after our very recent introduction to distemper and parvo with Keke and her siblings, we were hesitant to take on another pup. However, after a about a week with no activity regarding a foster for Cole (we were following his posts closely) we knew we had to step up. Cole arrived to our new apartment, open wounds, infections and all. The first weeks were rough for a number of reasons, but we all learned together. Cole learned to get around and be independent while we learned to keep him healthy and safe. Our “foster dog” soon became Cole the Wonder Pup, and we’ve been a team ever since.

Even before we officially adopted Cole, Kimmy and I knew he needed special attention. We quickly got him into hydrotherapy, taking him for his first swim before he was three months old, at Natural Healing Whole Dog Wellness. In addition, after moving within a couple miles of Integrative Pet Care in Hanover Park, we enrolled Cole in an intensive, 8-week therapy program, which kick started his ongoing massage, chiropractic therapy, and underwater treadmill. Cole currently goes to hydrotherapy once a week, gets a full body massage twice monthly, and gets a chiropractic adjustment when needed, typically once every three months. Cole stays in tip-top shape with the help of his extended team of caretakers (for whom we are extremely grateful, shout out to Dr. Rosie), vitamins and joint supplements, and high protein enriched food. In his free time, Cole enjoys lengthy naps in the grass, playing with his sisters (and foster pups), and, of course, cuddling with his parents.

Kevin Koster and Kimberly Boshold, parents of Cole and Keke, are active advocates for pitbulls and “differently-abled” animals. Their advocacy came  about after fostering, and later adopting, Cole and being exposed to the  archaic thoughts that surround the pitbull breed. Kimmy and Kevin volunteer with local rescue organizations in their free time and network to find dogs their furever home. In addition, Kimmy and Kevin spread Cole’s story in the hopes of giving pitbulls and differently-abled dogs a face. Kimmy and Kevin live just outside of Chicago with Cole, Keke, and plans for a continuous stream of foster pups.

Visit Cole's Facebook page:

 Photo courtesy of  Sparenga Photography

Photo courtesy of Sparenga Photography

Will he get better?

We have had Spud for almost 2 years now. When we first heard about him, we knew he was grossly overweight and there was something going on with his back legs that made it difficult for him to walk. The photo we were sent by our friends in LA was too much, with his giant ears and tongue sticking out the left side of his mouth. As a special needs senior we knew he would be work. But we fell in love before we even met him. 

Spud is lucky; I get to take him with me to my office every day. He gets to hang out with me, sleep in a heated bed, chill in the sun, and get exercise running around the office. Recently, I have started hearing “Will he ever get better?” again, this time from some new people in my office. Here is the thing, Spud is better. These new people might not be able to tell the difference, or know what it was like before. 

One thing I am grateful that Spud has taught me is to do the best you can each and every day. Spud has debilitating arthritis, terrible luxating patellas (also called sticky knees) that make his legs contort and slide out from under him sometimes; his heart is enlarged and in the early stages of congestive heart failure; and in the last 8 or so months he has started having seizures for which he now gets expensive medication 3 times a day. At this point, Spud is as good as he will ever be. His joints are slowly being crippled by the damage already done to them, and the knees won’t get better without a surgery that would put more strain on his other already damaged joints. His heart will get larger and fill his lungs with fluids. He will eventually need medication for that too - medication that will eventually stop working as the progression of the heart disease gets worse. We don’t know for sure what is causing the seizures or how that disease will progress. But every day, Spud gets up and is ready for the day. He barks at me to wake up and give him his medication and the special treats that come with it. He barks at me for attention sometimes when he is feeling feisty. He tells the other dogs off when he thinks they need to be told. Every day he does the best he can for that day. Today I can tell is a hard day for him. His joints aren’t letting him move in the way he wants to move, but he is enjoying sleeping in the warm sun. He is making the best of the day today, here, and now. For Spud this is better. This is the best.

Follow Spud the Chihuahua on Facebook!

Elizabeth Bylenga, Spud's Mom, is currently a Junior Trainer at Animal Sense and is working towards getting her CPDT while working a full time job and attending classes at CanineLink. Born in Chicago and raised in southwest Michigan, Elizabeth was called “Dr. Doolittle” by her parents growing up. Her intense love of animals and curiosity about how things work drew her to dog training.  Elizabeth, her husband and three adopted dogs, from left to right: Spud (10yrs), Presley (3yrs), and Chiquita (6yrs) live in Chicago.

Veterinary Rehabilitation

Veterinary rehabilitation played a very large role in Bialy's life. From the moment her splint came off she was at Integrative Pet Care three times a week getting laser therapy, physical therapy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy. Emma, our PT was amazing and showed us what exercises we could do at home utilizing her Help Em Up Harness to continue her progress. Here are a few videos of some of Bialy's first days in rehab.

Erin Kowalski is the founder of Bialy's Wellness Foundation and was Bialy's mom. She owns AURA Natural Pet and is a Nationally Certified Canine Massage Therapist, Reiki Practitioner and always seeking and sharing knowledge to optimize the quality of life of our pets. Erin is currently attaining certification in Animal Loss and Grief Support Counseling. She and her husband, Will reside in Chicago with their 12 year old chocolate labrador, Zeus and the foster puppy frequenting their home.

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