About Margaret Blackman:
Mild mannered accountant by day and “Crazy Dog Lady” by night, pets have been part of Margaret’s life from a very early age and she has been heavily involved in rescue for the last 10 years as a foster home and emergency responder. She currently shares her home with 5 teckels (dachshunds) plus a varying number of fosters. These monthly articles will focus on the two “different” dachshunds: Heidi, who uses a wheelchair and Arthur, who was born without eyes. Do not feel sorry for either one of them, they may be different but neither should be considered handicapped or disabled. They are happy, healthy and just part of the pack.
One person’s trash is another’s treasure
This may be an old saying, but yet again, it has been proven true. Meet Arthur, my treasure, who was discarded as trash by his breeder.
Arthur was born without eyes. He was the only one of the litter to have this birth defect. Arthur’s eyes did not develop beyond the embryonic stage and there was a complete absence of an optic nerve. At the age of 9 weeks, when the breeder had been unsuccessful in attempts to sell him, he was taken to the vet for euthanasia. The vet refused to kill a perfectly healthy puppy, got custody and called rescue. Brenda at Loyal Rescue knows me well and knows my heart for the physically challenged dachshunds, so she passed the email on to me. I agreed to foster the little one, so that she could also accept a medical case into her one available foster home. I was toast the moment the transporter handed me this tiny crate.
This is new territory for me. Back issues are old hat. I can rhyme off the dosages and schedule for prednisone in my sleep, I HAVE changed diapers in my sleep, I can tell the maker of a dog cart from 30 feet away, but I have had zero experience with a blind dog. My father was blind for the last 30 years of his life, so I have generic experience with blindness, but is as close as it gets.
Arthur doesn’t know that the world isn’t supposed to be black. He is very smart and his ears and his nose work just fine, thank you very much. I sat there, gobsmacked, as this 10 week old puppy mapped out my sister’s kitchen in his head in about 2 minutes flat. He knew where all the table and chair legs were located, zeroed in on his pee pad and water bowl, and was off to the races. He fell in love with my niece. He sniffed everyone’s feet until he found hers, then would wiggle all over and climb onto her lap. When she left the room, this 10 week old pup put his nose to the ground and followed her trail exactly out of the kitchen, over the carpet and was trying to climb the stairs to follow her.
There have been some adaptations for a blind dog in our house. I tell him “pup up” before picking him up, “pup down” before setting him back down. At obedience class, I attached some bells to my left shoe so that he could find me and zero in.[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJd1RRs555U&feature=player_embedded#!’]
Our trainer loves Arthur because he is always so joyful. I think that is the best single word to describe him, joyful. People say “ahh, poor puppy” when they realize he is blind. Arthur never feels sorry for himself. If he steps out and bumps his head, you can see him process “oh, need to go around that” and he just carries on with the same joi de vie.
I am the one who has had the learning curve. If I carry Arthur into a room, it is “pup down, living room” and I always put him down in the same place. In the living room, it is on a small piece of carpet, in the kitchen I put him down in the same corner on the tile, for his sleeping area it is “pup down, Arthur’s room” and put him on his cushion.
Arthur has a “braille” pee pad. I use a pee pad tray which clamps over the pee pad so he can feel when he is completely on the paper. This is a challenge for dachshunds because of their length. With his “braille” pad, Arthur is much more accurate than the sighted ones are on their papers.
His toys either make noises or have a stronger scent. His squeaky snake is a particular favourite. When he walks over it, snake squeaks, then when he pounces on the squeaky end, his back feet make the other end squeak. When he turns to get that end, his back feet step on that end, and so on …. His ball rattles when it rolls, so whether he bumps into the ball and initiates play, or if I roll the ball, he knows exactly where it is.
Click here to read Margaret’s first article about Heidi – the dachshund who uses a special cart to get around.