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The isolation the Grinnells felt was similar to what Joyce Darrell and her husband, Mike Dickerson, experienced when their dog Duke severed his spinal cord in an accident in 1999. Instead of euthanizing Duke, they purchased a wheeled cart from the Grinnells.

They’ve since adopted another dog with paralyzed legs.

Those adoptions have since grown into a full-time rescue operation called Pets With Disabilities, which Mr. Dickerson runs from his home in Prince Frederick, Md. The program rescues between 50 and 70 dogs a year, finding permanent homes for most.

Mr. Dickerson said disabled dogs often bond tighter with people than able-bodied dogs “because they need humans for more things.” Still, there are more challenges in caring for disabled animals, including higher medical costs.

“Folks typically shy away from animals that are going to require medical care, and cost is usually the No. 1 issue,” said Gail Buchwald at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Adoptions Center in New York.

Mary Dow, a volunteer with Independent Animal Rescue in Durham, N.C., rescued a cat named Daisy and paid $2,300 for surgery on Daisy’s broken leg. She raised more than $1,800 to offset the tab.

“It’s not necessarily a foregone conclusion that all people shy away from disabled animals,” she said, however. “We’ve found homes for quite a few who would have been euthanized.”

That second chance isn’t just for the animals, Leslie Grinnell said, but for humans who stand to learn a lot from their disabled pets.

“These animals don’t feel sorry for themselves one little bit,” she said. “They really have a lot to teach us.”