There is a dog in my life. Her name is Haven, also known as Princess Pretty Paws, and she’s a 14-year-old German Shepherd. She is not able to see or hear, but her sniffer still works great. Giving her opportunities to smell stuff is an excellent way to perk up her brain and body. Her primary place of residence is with my daughter’s dad, but recently I’ve been picking her up a few days a week to go on a sniffing jaunt. Parks, trails, and empty parking lots all work well. We like pungent grass and warm sunshine.
Haven wasn’t always blind. Five years ago when we unexpectedly lost her partner-in-crime, a male German Shepherd, Haven developed pannus (an autoimmune condition in which a membrane grows over the eye) that advanced so fast the medication did nothing to stop it. It is possible that the stress of her buddy dying contributed to the rapid progression. As dogs tend to do, she adapted to both the loss of her friend and the loss of her sight with grace. If I had a drop or two of Haven’s capacity for acceptance, well, suffering and negativity would occupy much less real estate in my brain.
She has learned to sit by the gate when I come, and she lets me know she is happy to see me. She greets me with a subtle wiggle of her body, ears bent in her particular way (another of her nicknames is “Bendy Ears”), and a nuzzle of her head. Then it’s right out the open gate, eager to go on our adventure. The way she welcomes me is the highlight of my day. I try to incorporate that extra warm welcome when I greet friends and clients, but I don’t always remember to do so. Haven never forgets.
The leash works as gentle guidance to stay away from walls and drop-offs, and when we are downtown, to keep her from plunging into her favorite, the Sulphur Spring. I don’t want you to get the idea that Haven is frail. When she decides she’s had enough of a particular area, she digs in her paws and we change direction. There is no arguing and she means business. I love that about her. Some day I hope to stand my ground as definitively as she does.
Our wanderings are sometimes circular, sometimes back and forth, and sometimes zig-zag. We take little breaks for doggie-massage and treats. Our unrushed pace means I get to look at her so that we are in communication, and I get to take in the blue sky, bright birdsong, and moving water. It is usually early enough that it is quiet, and we have lots of space to ourselves.
Being with Haven is precious time. It is a time of contentment, affection, and surprises - like when she gets a wild hair and takes off at a trot. I have to run to keep up. This time with her is easy, a respite with no demands, and a rare time to just be. Sometimes I look at her pretty face and she is smiling her sweet doggie smile. I think she likes this time too.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT