If you know me personally you know I have dogs. I love dogs. I talk about dogs endlessly if you let me. I have had all kinds of dogs, kept several for weeks and even months so they could eventualy go home. I have even had the misfortune of losing a few over the years.
So it should come as no shock to you when I tell you how hopelessly distraught I was last Saturday evening when we couldn't find one of our beloved dogs. Even worse, it was Henry, our BLIND Australian Shepherd. We each thought the other had made sure he was inside. In the chaos of making dinner and putting 3 boys in bed we never noticed he wasn't asleep on the floor.
Now before you think "how could you miss a big 60lb dog?" you must first know Henry. He is a quiet, intelligent, sweet guy who rarely makes noise unless there is reason. We have had him since he was 4 months old, he started going blind at 2 and at 5 is now 100% blind. It was a genetic disorder that not even his breeder could prevent. He adjusted so well we didn't really know there was problem until his eyes began changing physically, not contracting with light, etc. He still played, occasionally bumping while turning a corner, missing steps, but never complaining always adjusting. He would walk easily through a house that constantly changed with toddlers and infants walking about moving toys and Mom who likes to rearrange. When we finally figured it out he was about 80% blind, only seeing shapes and shadows we think.
Now I have not known any other blind dogs but I have read a bit online. I have yet to see/read about one that acts like Henry. I don't know if it is because we didn't know he was going blind or that I require him to still do things like a sighted dog. My husband was very upset by the news he was mostly blind. I reminded him that the only difference between the day we found out and the day before was our knowledge that he was blind. Henry didn't label himself and I was determined our attitude toward him didn't change his sense of being a dog. I guess it worked because he is fearless. He still tries to herd and can nip you if you give him enough time and noise. And little boys usually do.
SO, Saturday night I was a mess. After checking every inch of the house, front yard, and back yard where a 60lb Australian Sheperd could fit I started knocking on the neighbor's doors. He never goes too far but he had been in the front yard (still confused how he got left out there) for 2 1/2 hours alone, in the rain. After about 15 minutes I couldn't stop the tears. He is blind and smart but he won't whine or bark for me. He will just sit down and wait until I find him if he gets stuck. Or someone picked him up. He didn't have on tags because the noise confuses him inside the house. It was dark and it was impossible to see him. Praying for God to return your dog seems silly, even to me, but I did anyway.
All our neighbors came out to help us look. It was late and raining. I couldn't believe they would do that. I finally decided to drive around. I knew he wouldn't behave like a normal dog. He would stay against something feeling/smelling his way foward. So I decided to drive as if he had gone down the hill (which he never does without one of us) and followed a scent along the curb/fence line. It felt impossible.
I turned the corner and there he was! Sniffing a mailbox. I know kind of quick huh?
He had gone the way I thought and I can only thank God for this small blessing. If it were not for the rain more people would have been out. Someone would have picked him up and never brought him back. Even with the blindness he is a wonderful pet.
If you have ever met Henry you would know why he is such a great dog. He is very well behaved and very sweet. To lose him was unthinkable to me but it reminded me in a small way how quickly things can change. How wonderful things can be one minute and horrible the next. I am thankful it was a temporary sense of loss and joyful that things were right back to normal. I am also thankful for the reminder how temporary the things we cling to tightly can be, even dogs.