End the Year with Cheer: Mojo’s Hope helps special needs pets and their families

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 7:55 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Purrl is a little gray kitten with a big personality and two back legs so twisted she’s unable to use them. That doesn’t stop her though. She’s one of the stars at Mojo’s Hope, a nonprofit that works with special needs animals and their people.

Cats with twisted legs, seizures or diabetes these are some of the animal being given a second chance at life by Mojo’s Hope. Animals that other people would give up on are thriving under the right care.

“Do they let their disability [stop them] no because they’re not people” says Shannon Basner, founder of Mojo’s Hope. “We anthropomorphize, we try to put our feelings on them, ‘oh they have to feel that way because we do.’ They don’t. They live in the moment, they think in the moment and they just enjoy everything.”

Basner speaks with a New York accent and a deep passion. She started Mojo’s Hope because of a special bond with Mojo, a Malamute she had only for a few months. She says his passing was hard on her and she decided to create a place for animals to get that extra care they need.

She knows losing a pet can be devastating and three years ago she went through a program to help guide others through their grief. Basner says it’s different for everyone and offers pet loss and bereavement support, whether it is being with people as they say goodbye to their beloved pets or being an online sounding board.

Mojo’s Hope also offers physical support for people who care for special needs animals.

“A lot of our guys are really challenging and some people really have fears about taking in an animal that’s fragile,” says Basner. “And we try to do our best to support in the best way possible with all the guidance and instruction and education about how to care for these animals so that fear is diminished for each person.”

That support can be as simple as a ride to the vet, behavior shaping help or showing someone how to administer insulin.

Another of the poster felines for Mojo’s Hope is HarPURR. His back legs don’t work, he was found on the street when he was three weeks old, but Basner syringed fed the kitten who is now an elegant cat zooming around the house and even appearing in Zoom calls.

HarPURR has his own fund. The HarPURR Fund goes toward supporting families with special needs animals, with funds for treatment, surgeries and keeping pets with the people who love them.

There is no shortage of love and bills at Mojo’s Hope just the medication costs run nearly $2,000 every couple of months, and that doesn’t include food, litter and toys.

Basner says she has a few dedicated donors, people who have heard about the program or adopted pets through them.

These are difficult times for many, and some people who aren’t able to help financially help in kind, by making cat blankets, catnip toys and supplies. She says the best way to help is to keep an eye on Mojo’s Hope’s Facebook page for special projects or look up their wish list on their website.

Normally, she would also have help from volunteers to socialize the animals before they find a foster family, but COVID-19 has halted that.

Basner, a special education teacher, also believes in education and advocacy. She works with Alaska KAAATs as well, a group that promotes pet safety. Through their Facebook page, they explain why keeping a cat indoors increases their life span, why cats need their claws and offer bereavement support for families who have lost a pet.

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