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Lemons

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When life gives you lemons you make lemonade.

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Meet Dozer. Life wasn’t very fair for Dozer. Keen on playing Frisbee since a young age, at age five Dozer suddenly started missing catches. We noticed that he tracked the flight of the disc with his ears, waited for it to land, then found the disc by using his nose. Why? Because Dozer was going blind. This happened long before I’d heard anything about Cattle Dogs and heritable eye diseases. And never having had a dog with eye problems, I didn’t know how complicated it would be to find a canine ophthalmologist who could properly diagnose and treat the problem. Not that the only solution was good …

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Nobody wants to hear their young dog is going to go blind. The news hit hard, even though the vet tried to soften the blow by telling us we could try treating the condition for a little while. She was just trying to buy us more time to adjust to the fact that the dog was going to lose his vision. I cried for days. I think my husband cried …. in private. Hearing the diagnosis felt like my heart was being cut out of my chest with a dull pocket knife. How was it possible that our young, active herding dog was going blind? I wanted to blame someone, but who? I guess we could have blamed the breeder. Obviously, they hadn’t tested the breeding pair that produced our pup.  But it was our fault too, for not knowing enough to ask about eye tests and heritable diseases in this breed. Pre-Internet, that information was not as easy to come by. And now we were going to have to pay the piper for our ignorance.

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And yet, the one who paid the highest price never once complained. Dozer lost first one eye, then nine months later he lost the other. Unable to bear the thought of our sweet boy having no eyes, we decided to have one eye removed and the other was retained as a prosthetic. But by age six Dozer had no vision at all. This didn’t slow Dozer down the least bit. He continued to play Frisbee by ear. He still went to work with my husband every Saturday morning, and he didn’t hesitate to patrol our farm just like always. He navigated several flights of stairs with ease and jumped into the cab of the truck like it was no big deal. His ability to get around was anything from amazing to uncanny. He only struggled when snow covered the ground. Otherwise, he just used his nose to find his way about.

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Living with a blind dog provided a few comedic moments. It was pretty much guaranteed that if Dozer was running across the front yard he’d somehow manage to bonk into the bird feeder pole. He’d always miss the big huge trees, but then he’d clip that  skinny wrought iron post every now and then. And If he got terribly excited about going outside he’d sometimes miscalculate the a kitchen doorway and bang into the wall. At first this really bothered us, but eventually we learned to accept it as part and parcel of living with a bind dog.

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In the seven years Dozer was blind I learned a lot of things. First and foremost, I learned that our perception of a handicap is everything. Dozer didn’t think anything of being blind and when I took my cue from him, I didn’t think it was a big deal either. I have Dozer to thank for teaching me not to sweat the small stuff. Second, I learned that if there’s a will, there’s a way. I watched Dozer figure out how to do just about everything he used to do when he had sight. In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Last, but not least, I learned that blind dogs can “see” us with their heart. Though Dozer lacked sight, he more than made up for his blindness with love. Dozer didn’t hesitate to give us his all along with his total trust and devotion.

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Dozer lived to be thirteen. He eventually developed a dog form of dementia which, coupled with blindness made getting around difficult. He gradually began to lose his mental map of his surroundings and started to get lost in places he once knew so well. We always said that when he started to show signs of hesitating to go up and down stairs or get into the truck we’d revisit his quality of life. The picture at the top of this page was taken the morning we sent Dozer over the bridge. He still insisted on playing Frisbee and we let him enjoy his favorite game right up until the vet pulled up the drive. We buried him with his beloved disc.

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Life isn’t always fair, but Dozer lived every day like it was a party, and he was serving lemonade.

5 responses

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: No Fair | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

  2. Thanks for sharing a very touching story with some real lessons for all of us. Our pets are family–they share our entire lives with us. Form your narrative, it sounds like Dozer had a really good life, and some very special “parents.”

    September 21, 2013 at 5:08 AM

    • Thanks Mike. While Dozer wasn’t the greatest example of his breed, he was an excellent ambassador. He never met a person, dog or animal he didn’t like and he never seemed to mind the fact that he had a handicap. I cried many a tear over his vision loss until I came to realize that the more it distressed me, the more that upset him. He had the sweetest personality for such a tough little dog and he certainly enjoyed life to the fullest. That’s a pretty good lesson to learn!

      September 21, 2013 at 8:17 AM

  3. Pingback: Daily Prompt: No Fair | Joe's Musings

  4. Pingback: Unfair | Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me

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