24 January 2009
The Blind Dog
No, the light hasn't caught her eyes, Goldy, the cocker spaniel is completely blind. (I didn't see the grass on her nose till later but then Goldy uses her nose all the time).
Goldy has been coming to Pension Milou for a few years now. She's eleven years old and was bought in a shop in Nice when she was just four months. She lives with a beautiful French lady called Catherine and her two children in Monaco and in La Turbie where she enjoys the garden. Two years ago when Catherine went through a divorce, sweet Goldy was there for her. And Catherine has always been there for Goldy - it's a relationship that is beautiful to see.
When Goldy was one year old, she was diagnosed with degradation of the retina and Catherine was told she would eventually go completely blind. She deteriorated but for years still had the tiniest amount of sight and so she managed very well here, finding her way down the steps to the garden. She'd even go on the ski lift with the family when they visit Valberg - and she still does.
Catherine and I used to discuss how Goldy would manage when she went completely blind and I told her I was sure , because she was so familiar with her Monaco apartment and with this house and garden, that she'd do fine.
I was wrong. One day Catherine called to say that Goldy had suddenly gone completely blind and that she was at a standstill. She wouldn't move. It took a month before she found her confidence and could find her way around her apartment alone. The same happened here. She was terrified, frozen to the spot, and I had to guide her everywhere for the first few visits.
But you know, dogs are amazing. Goldy is so brave. She now walks around, nose glued to the ground - that's how she finds her way about - she moves slowly, especially going down the flight of steps to the garden. But she manages. She won't be rushed. She trusts her nose more than me. She sleeps in the kitchen, behind a baby gate. I feel that is best for her. She has security with no other dogs to bother her. I was concerned some of the dogs wouldn't understand why she doesn't react as other dogs do and so perhaps could hurt her. In fact, at times, when she's with the dogs outside, they are fine and she always likes to sniff them and say hello. She knows the kitchen area though - she can find the water bowl, she knows where her bed is located.
Her head is always on one side, cocked, listening for sounds. When I go into the kitchen, she perks up - is it food time? Goldy loves her food. And she is so trusting. When it's 'biscuit time' before bed, she stands there waiting - she knows I won't forget to give her a biscuit. Or two.
Dogs astound me. They are brave, they don't complain, they even enjoy life despite their physical problems. Didn't someone say, 'Everything I learned, I learned from my dog?' That is surely so.
Every dog I've owned has taught me something different and some of the dogs who come to stay teach me too. There are new challenges with Mistral and Mia. With Mistral I'm learning patience as she won't allow me to relax on the sofa. If I'm reading she'll paw the book out of my hand for attention. She isn't yet able to sit beside me, me stroking her, she has to continually push and prod me for yet more. Not very relaxing when I want to watch the television. Patience, Jilly.
Mia is scared of strangers and has obviously been beaten by a man as she goes crazy when she sees one, wanting to get as far away from him as possible and telling me with her continual barking that this dreadful creature is in the vicinity. Yet, she's not as needy for affection as Mistral. She's happy to sit alongside, just so long as she knows where I am. With her though I have to deal with her mad crazy barking when I prepare the food. Any other dog I'd tell to be quiet. With Mia, I'm trying Cesar Millan's (The Dog Whisperer) technique of saying quietly and calmly - but definitely - 'Psst' - and slowly we are getting there. There is improvement with strangers - she too is brave - she sometimes ventures up to sniff a hand, but then runs away again. We'll get there...
From our dogs, we learn how to love unselfishly. We learn compassion, patience, how to fall about with laughter and so much more. Goldy taught me about courage and not to complain. It can't be easy for her to stay at Pension Milou and when Catherine comes to collect her, she goes crazy and is truly happy again. It's almost as if she knows Catherine has to go away sometimes and so she bravely puts up with the time spent here. Goldy is a kind dog. Another lesson.