It’s a grim reality; special needs animals are sometimes tossed aside like garbage. Unwanted and unloved by their owners. Erika Proctor, owner of Green Dogs Unleashed in Troy, Virginia, has seen first-hand how some special needs animals are treated. Seven years ago, the animal behavioral specialist established Green Dogs Unleashed, a non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of forgotten and unwanted cats and dogs. Green Dogs Unleashed was voted best pet obedience school and took 3rd place in the category pet rescue organization in this year’s Readers’ Choice competition. “I realized special needs dogs needed an advocate, someone who would fight for them,” she said. “Because they are worth fighting for.” With a handful of volunteers, the rescuers started their quest. In their first year, they managed to rescue, train and place around 30 dogs with loving, caring families. Last year, over 100 volunteers placed almost 400 dogs. And it all started with Charlie, a Catahoula Leopard dog who was “tossed aside like trash”, because he was deaf and blind. “Charlie truly is a remarkable animal,” Proctor said. As with some animals who come to Green Dogs Unleashed, Charlie stayed and now visits schools and retirement communities as a therapy dog. “He was officially the first dog as part of our program,” Proctor said. Green Dogs gets requests from shelters all over the country to take care of special needs dogs and cats. The organization rescues animals in need and professionally trains them to become therapy dogs and places them with a family who care for them. “Whenever there’s a special needs dog or cat that ends up in a shelter, we are there to care for that animal. They come to us from all over the country.” Likewise, new owners are found across the country, too. “We’ve had adoptions from California, New Mexico, Michigan and even Canada, to name a few of the places our dogs end up,” Proctor said. “We do require that new owners come to us for a visit and meet with the animal.” On a personal level, Proctor said that saving animals is in her soul. “We keep track of the dogs adopted and especially the ones that are local visit us when we have events. It’s an amazing experience to see how these animals flourish,” she said. “From and awful beginning, to being part of a loving family, it makes the whole experience come full circle.”