Thursday, December 06, 2012

We need to talk to you!

Recently on the trip to buy kibbles, blind Hiker and the blind spotted wonder pup Breeze came along.  Both girls were enthusiastically greeted by the staff who has come to know the pack over the years.  We approached the counter and a lady in the store with a man and a smallish dog getting a nail trim said something along the lines of careful, our dog is blind.

The staff, with a big smile, pointed to us and said, "Both of those dogs are blind too! And they got another one at home.  They have three blind dogs."  The lady with the blind dog said, "Really?  Three blind dogs? We need to talk to you!"  She grabbed her husband's arm and dragged him over.  Turns out their dog was older and had recently lost his sight.  

Her question was, "How do you do it?"

My mind went blank. 

Living with three blind dogs and dealing with their disabilities is just such a part of every day life that it's not something I am conscious of any more.  I don't look at the pack and mentally categorize them, the blind ones, the deaf one, the one with...the bad leg, the challenging attitude, the scared one...  Yes, that is part of who they are, but to me, that does not define them.

So I told them my first thought was I don't coddle or treat my blind dogs any different and I went on to explain.  

I don't put padding on the edges of things they might bump, I don't have carpet runners as pathways to follow through the house.  I don't use a harness and a short leash when we're out.  I use a collar, normal length leash and if possible, they're off leash. They are encouraged to explore and experience new things.  They are expected to and do achieve the same level of acceptable behavior as their sighted pack mates.

I've watched all three learn to check if there is another dog on the couch or on the chair before jumping up.  I use my foot as a gentle nudge or guide since it's quicker then bending down.  I open doors slower and those doors have squeaky hinges that aren't oiled and I watch where their heads are so they don't get bumped.

I've rearranged the furniture because I wanted to. We go hiking, camping and backpacking. We've stayed in hotels and in a house where other dogs had lived.

I laugh at them as they are wrestling, leap and land on nothing because they are blind and completely miss the other.  I laugh as they throw a toy in the air then pounce almost on it, sniff around until they find it and then I enthusiastically congratulate them.  I smile at the cats who are smart enough to step aside when one of the blind dogs tries to make contact. I am happy for them as they discover new things like trying to push their noses through the fence to get at the tomato plants so they can pick their own.  I still get a little thrill every time they chase a squirrel, based on sound alone, as it runs along the top of the wooden fence.

It's a proud feeling to watch my blind dogs confidently venture forth in the world that to them will always be dark.  Seeing them fearlessly run along a trail, play in a pile of leaves, swim in the ocean, run along the beach and enthusiastically greet strangers makes me happy.

So I said to the couple and their older blind dog that since they have had their dog for years and he knows the house and yard and they're still taking him out and about, just keep doing what you're doing.  Reward courage and ignore fear.  I did suggest that people or other pets wearing a bell might help the older and newly blind dog get his bearings but, if it were me, I told them that I really wouldn't do much different. 

I shared with them a bit about a blind foster dog we had last year.  I got him from a "free to good home" ad.  He was a ten year old lab that had been blind for a couple of years. Patience and a sense of humor went a long way to help get him settled.  He adapted to our home and enjoyed laying around with the others, loved going for walks and meeting people.

Was I a help to the people at the store?  I don't know.  I hope so.  Just like this blog.  Maybe it will help alleviate concerns, be a place that someone will ask questions or get somebody to realize the potential of a special needs dog. (like the deaf puppy that Blueberry's human told us about the other day: )

I like to think that we are helping to make a difference beyond our pack.


  1. What a wonderful story. You stated it all so eloquently. I admire your golden heart. Thank you for sharing and I am sure you gave those folks some good food for thought, I know I did!!

  2. I am sure your insights helped them see that coddling their now blind dog wasn't the answer. How wonderful that you had that opportunity to help someone else and yes, I do believe your blog will do the same for others. :)

  3. Wow I'll bet that was a huge help to those people! It is wonderful how you allow your blind dogs to just be themselves--it sounds like they have enormously fulfilling lives.

  4. Anonymous12/06/2012

    That is so very sweet. I'm sure that, if nothing else, it gave them the confidence they needed to just keep living their usual way.

  5. When my older beagle went blind...I think it was harder on me than it was on her. For a while, I put a radio by the pet door so she could find the pet door. I would watch her out in the back yard running back and forth answering the dogs in the next yard and playing with our other dog and cat, and I realized that she was going to be just fine.

  6. I think that you have so much to teach all of us. I remember when each of my elderly dogs went deaf, and I had to re-learn the little tricks to keep them safe. A source like you would be amazing for someone with a newly blind dog.

    Thank you!

  7. I'm really glad I found your blog! Your dogs are all beautiful, and I'm looking forward to hearing more about your adventures as well as digging through the archives and finding out more about them.