Special-needs poodle has a black belt in ‘fetch’

What’s the best thing about all the visitors and volunteers who come to Dogtown? If you ask Addison, it’s having more people to play fetch with. The young poodle rushes over to greet new people the second that they walk into her room. Then, if you bend down and hold out your hand, she’ll place her tennis ball in the center of your palm and wait for you to throw it.

Addison is so keen on the game that she’s earned a reputation in Dogtown as the “queen of fetch.” Chances are good that she’s already exhausted her caregivers’ arms by the time visitors or volunteers come around. But she’s happy to keep new people entertained as long as they’ll stay and play.

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A poodle with special needs

Watching the adorable little white fluff ball bound after the ball or go airborne to catch it, it’s hard to believe she has any special needs. She’s young (about a year and a half), fast and agile. And she certainly doesn’t seem to know she’s different from any of her canine roommates.

Addison came to the Sanctuary from NorCal Poodle Rescue, a Best Friends No More Homeless Pets Network partner in California. She was having difficulty finding a home because damage to her vertebrae left her back end a little weak. As a result, she can't control where or when she goes to the bathroom.

Luckily, Addison isn't in any pain. She’s also not the kind of dog who lets her condition get in the way of the most important thing in life: having fun. With a little extra care, spunky Addison lives life to the fullest. She stays so active and fit that there’s barely a wobble in her walk.

While she sometimes has an accident or needs some help going to the bathroom, it’s not as challenging as it might sound. A bit of extra help and regular baths to keep her curly coat clean is all she needs.

Addison the poodle says, "Throw the ball, throw the ball!"

A dog chasing her passion

That’s good news for Addison, because she would much rather spend her days pursuing her passion for chasing tennis balls. While it’s all in good fun, Addison takes the game seriously and is so dedicated to it that you might think she was practicing for the doggie Olympics.

She also has so much energy that it’s hard for her caregivers to keep up with her during the busiest times of the day. “She never stops,” says Dogtown team lead Tierney Sain.

Enter the automatic ball launcher. With this nifty little machine, Addison never has to stop doing what she loves most, even during those rare times when there are no free hands to toss a ball through the air; however, someone has to load the ball launcher. While Addison’s caregivers do this for her, she’s so smart that she’s learning to do it herself.

That’s why she runs over to people and drops the tennis ball into their hands. She’s learning how to place the ball in just the right spot so that it can be thrown. If she misses the center of someone’s palm, the ball rolls to the floor just as it would if she missed the chute on the ball launcher. So she picks it up and tries again.

“Once she gets comfortable with that, we'll hold our hands over the ball launcher, then gradually take it away,” explains Sylvia Newcombe, one of Addison’s caregivers. “Then she’ll be dropping the ball right into the machine so she can entertain herself all day long.”

Addison the poodle experiencing the pure joy of playing ball

All about the fun

Of course, the ball launcher will never replace quality time with people. She’ll always love fetch best when she’s playing it with people, and there’s no shortage of people eager to pick up a game with Addison. After all, she’s pretty hard to resist and has quickly become a Dogtown volunteer favorite.

Addison will surely bring a lot of fun and laughter into her very own home one day. Until then, she’ll keep chasing her dreams (and plenty of tennis balls) in Dogtown. “She's all about the fun,” Sylvia says.

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There are many baseball teams that would do well to add Addison the poodle to their roster

Photos by Kurt Budde