It’s often been said that we have much to learn from animals. Especially our pets, these beloved animals who have lived closely with us humans for long enough to have many things to teach us. My dog is teaching me acceptance right now.
Ten days ago I knew nothing about sudden blindness in dogs. Now I know an acronym SARD stands for Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. It’s a canine disease that causes incurable and irreversible blindness within days, or a couple of weeks at most.
In the past few days my seven-years-young, medium sized mixed-breed spayed female dog has gone blind. Completely blind. It’s not cataracts or glaucoma which brings darkness gradually, or can be corrected. This event has been sudden and complete. It could be a side effect of the near-death starvation she suffered in her youth before I rescued her. Regardless of what caused it, she is my canine-daughter and we’re in this together.
She looks beautiful in her new pink harness with the padded breastplate and has quickly adjusted to walking briskly beside me instead of leading the way. When we get to the green off-leash space, there might be no more games of fetch but she happily runs beside me! We slow to a walk and I watch her happily stretch her limbs and smell the world. She has always been very attached to me so it’s not a huge stretch for her to stay close to me as we walk and run in her new darkness. The training of her excellent recall was time well spent, and especially now. After a good jaunt we head back towards the sidewalk and with a quick snap of leash to the harness ring at her withers, we’re off homeward. I am her ‘Seeing Eye Human’.
We’re getting used to new commands such as ‘Step Up’ and ‘Step down’ when arriving at steps or sidewalk curbs, and the harness is a huge improvement over the harmful neck-pulling that using her collar would have caused. I’m so glad I’d already taught her the command ‘Wait’ because it has helped immensely with having her pause and slow down (rather than fall down, or up) at the three stairs that lead into and out of our house.
Over the past few days, the example my dog offers has helped me go from time spent crying to understanding that everything is really okay. Blindness is, boiled down to a point, only one of the senses. Yes it is a very important one, but the lack of it does not end our lives. Life goes on. We go on. Life is all about accepting the things we cannot change.
Generating angst in ourselves, gnashing our teeth and pulling our hair, looking skyward and crying out Why?! This energy needs to be allowed out, as I did during my day of crying, but then we dry ourselves off, pick ourselves up, and step up. We must let go of the grief. Things change. Life is all about change. We realize that the sun keeps rising and life goes on. Day by day.
Remember the saying, ‘God does not make fruit grow on a limb too weak to bear its weight.’ This reminds me that God would not give me (or anyone) a challenge we cannot handle.
My beloved dog is handling her sudden blindness with grace and calm, displaying how to accept the things we cannot change. And I am learning from her example, with gratitude.