“She’s just happy to be here,” the vet said as he stepped out of his truck to vaccinate the horses. He was talking about the dog wagging her way to greet him. “She’s blind and deaf,” I explained. “She gets around by smell.”
Precious is a small Catahoula that I had been asked to foster for a while. She was abandoned as a young dog. The family probably picked her out of a litter of puppies and didn’t realize that she was impaired. Then she grew up and was put on the street. The shelter picked her up. It seemed that she had been left behind. After a while, she was adopted from the shelter. A few months later, the second family moved and left her tied to the back steps. So, the shelter picked her up again. It’s hard to place a dog with two major disabilities.
Precious is from south Louisiana and the product of an effort to breed for her beautiful blue merle coat and glass blue eyes. It was to be temporary and I was concerned about dealing with an animal that could not see or hear. How do you communicate with her?
The first few months went okay but then she just stopped eating. I thought simply that she would just get hungry enough and eat. This didn’t happen. I tried table scraps, milk, cottage cheese and bread but it was clear that she must also have an eating disorder. “Well,” said the vet, “any change will be amplified psychologically because of her problems.” I found that I could get her to eat by sitting on the floor beside her and putting dry dog food in my hand. Slowly she began to eat regular meals in a regular manner.
As the weeks passed, she learned to take her cues from my “normal” dogs and seemed to get around okay. It was difficult to get her attention. If she were sunbathing in the yard, I would have to go out and touch her. For the longest, she would jump up startled in raw fear. If she was sleeping on the porch, I stomped my foot. At night, I blinked the porch light. I learned that she could see just enough to notice the blinking.
As fall approached, my son began deer hunting in tree stands that he had scattered about the property. “Mom, your dog finds me in the woods and sits at the bottom of the tree! She’s ruining my hunting.”
She is very intelligent and manages to avoid dangers such as flying horse hooves. When she ventures into the pasture, she carefully stays by the fence or the edge of the woods so she can jump to safety should the horses spy her and decide to investigate.
She can find anything with her nose. She will now awaken if sleeping in the yard and the breeze blows my scent her way. She jumps up, puts nose to the ground and tracks every step that I have made until she runs into my legs. She begins at a walk, that grows into a trot, that becomes a dead run. “How brave. Blind dog running.” I wonder, “Would I be brave enough to run if I were blind… and deaf?”
I have now had her about four years and she is… just happy to be here.