Jane Wickler adopted Katara, who is missing her rear right leg.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
Every year, millions of unwanted animals in the US are euthanized. It's difficult enough to find homes for the healthy ones, meaning animals with special needs have an even lower chance of adoption.
One Dubuque woman, however, is pushing against that. Like the poem on the Statue of Liberty, "The New Colossus," this woman says, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled" cats and dogs.
Someone wondering what kind of person would adopt almost exclusively pets with special needs does not have to look any farther than Jane Wickler.
"See, here's where he's missing his front leg," Wickler said Tuesday afternoon at her home while holding Perry, a lively yellow tabby kitten, whose front left leg is gone. "He was hit by a car and the leg and the whole shoulder was crushed, so they had to amputate back the whole shoulder joint."
Wickler and her daughter, 20-year-old Rose Wickler, also have a German Boxer named Anika.
"But we just kind of call her Nubby or Nubby Butt" Wickler said, laughing. "She's always wagging the tail. She's just such a happy girl."
Nubby has a face, one might say, only a mother could love.
"Some people, of course, don't like this kind of a face, but I do," Wickler said, holding Nubby close to her in a recliner. "My life is so much better with this big galoop smashing my lap and giving me kisses."
Nubby came to Wickler with tumors in her breast tissue and uterus.
"She had to have a surgery to take off the malignant breast tumor. That was $700," Wickler said. "I spent about $1,000 in the first six weeks, but I've got this fantastic dog and somebody could dump that on a puppy, which then chews up the house or something."
She took in her first animal with special needs in 2003, and since then, her home has been a refuge for nearly a dozen such animals.
"I know it's better now," Wickler said, patting Nubby. "She's got good nutrition, she's got great health care, my vet's fantastic and, yeah, I know it's better for them now and I know my life is a lot better with them."
This kind of care for the animals isn't cheap. Wickler estimates she has spent more than $10,000 on special medical procedures for them.
"You know, there is one thing to consider, though: yes, it does cost more medically-wise," Wickler said.
However, she said, that's just what you do for family.
"She calls them my siblings, but I call them pets," Rose Wickler said. "We're known as the Wickler Zoo."
The family has two dogs, three cats and a fish. One cat and the fish are both perfectly healthy, "normal" animals. The other two cats, however, are missing a limb due to an accident.
The other dog, Barty, came from a hoarder's house.
"He lived in a basement for the first year of his life. He never saw daylight or people or anything like that," Wickler said.
The animals may be a little worse for the wear, but Jane Wickler wouldn't have them any other way.
"You know what, that's okay. I can just have these older dogs who don't know 800 tricks," Wickler said, as Nubby licked her face.
Wickler works at PetSmart and soon will be a dog trainer. In order to become certified, however, she has to go out of town for a two-week course.
"This is going to be so horrible, I'm going to miss Nubby!" Wickler lamented from her recliner." I might have to Skype her or something!"