Saturday, April 13, 2013

Understanding Ferrel, by Paul

Annie is naturally gentle, but also spirited. She has challenged my patience many times. But not knowing where her issues end is my greatest learning challenge. She is blind from birth, probably booted from the nest to perish, as nature might have it, so ferrel she is with no association with mother or siblings , no parenting from her own kind, only her instincts to guide her survival .  Being a healthy large breed, thankfully a protector at heart, she has forgiven my lack of understanding many times and has put up with my expectations, however crazy without levelling me! She leans on me despite my demands and plays like a puppy. She is excited when she hears Val's voice on returning from an absence. She shows excitement by barking to the sky. She has pride while waltzing around the yard with a toy in her mouth, thinking this is her job.

Meanwhile, tending to the visual business is our 2 1/2 year old Great Pyr Ruby who barks warnings at strangers nearby, or anything that may require her attention.  Annie is right there in full support and voice not knowing what the heck is up or down! How all this has come about is truly fascinating to try to understand, and we will never know all the components that have come to this point in Annie's development . But I do know that Ruby has been absolutely the biggest assistant to both Val and I, she is truly her breed, protecting Annie, mentoring and disciplining in a way we could not.  So Ruby's instincts have just garnered my great respect for this breed and to her, such a loving gentle dog with loyalty to death for us and her flock. Don't mess with this lady!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I close my eyes and wonder.

Does she see things the way they are?

Now, I’m thinking. When I look at anything, I mean anything, even the keyboard in front of me, what is it I really see? I do close my eyes and wonder. What is the difference between looking and seeing? If I suddenly lost my sight, I would no longer be looking at something, but would I still see it?

This is the summary that was given to us from the West Coast Veterinary Eye Specialists stating the following,
“Blind, both eyes, suspect intracranial, Annie is not visual and I believe that she has been blind since birth. I suspect her blindness originates from her brain. As discussed today I am confident that Annie will continue to do well.”

I have often wondered, what does Annie really “see”, what is she “looking” at, and how does she know what is in front of her? This brings me to telling you my theory of how this can be.

For Annie to walk into a room, I think to myself, that takes courage. What I see, is a normal dog walk into a normal room with many obstacles to avoid.
As Annie manoeuvres herself up or down a flight of stairs, I hold my breath and wonder how scary that must be for her. When in fact, Annie is getting from A to B any which way she can possibly manage.

When the back door opens and someone enters the room, Annie will greet them. I shake my head and ask myself, how does she know that? Annie is simply greeting someone at the door.

As I help her to her night time bed, and we cuddle for a few moments, she soon relaxes and falls into a deep sleep. As I leave the room my heart is bursting with love, and I see, Annie’s heart couldn’t possibly be any fuller as she settles down for the night.

So, yes, even though Annie is “not visual” she utilizes her strength, her courage, her emotions, her memory, and her instinct to see her way through the day. For Annie, life without vision has never been an issue. We humans depend on our sight to guide her, and tend to forget the fact that she does see things the way they are. It’s all in the way you look at it.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Early Stage

The days go by, between myself, Paul, Ruby and the cats we are all, confused and amazed to see how Annie manages to figure everything out. She doesn't seem to be aware of who or what her role is. She is still in survival mode, she uses her mouth and teeth to tell us to back off, this we learn very early.
Ruby is a confused 2 year old. She wants to make friends with this new little arrival. It doesn't take long before Ruby realizes Annie is the same but different.

We begin with the stairs. We need to teach Annie how to use the stairs as there are three exits in our house, and they all have stairs! She must learn this, and learn it fast, after all, once she can master the stairs, she will learn housetraining. Ruby watches closely as we coax Annie down the steps. Days and months go by, Annie has had more treats than you can imagine. Will she go down the stairs on her own? Not a chance, not now and sometimes it feels like not ever! So, we push from behind, wave treats under her nose, step step step.... No luck. We work on the stairs everyday 5 sometimes 10 times a day, I am getting very good at going down the stairs backwards myself. Without us realizing Ruby is right by our side at all times. Is it because she wants to help, or is it because she gets treats just for being there? Seems like a good gig for Ruby.

Another key training point for Annie, is she must be taught how to walk on a leash. That requires having to put a collar or harness on her first. Annie is 100% against anything that even comes remotely close to going over her head or around her neck. We won't let her get away with being bratty about it, that's just puppy stuff, so we think. Let the battle begin, we will get through this, perseverance, patience and time, that's all she needs. Annie is getting wise to us and learns very quickly how to back up faster than you can blink. I have had my hands bitten more times than I care to remember. Why the battle as I sit with a dogless collar and leash in my hand? I only wish she could get an understanding of what it is that we are trying to accomplish, that by putting a leash on her would result in a pleasant walk with Ruby, through the forest with birds, and smells and different sounds,she would love it if only we could get the leash training under control, so we think.

Next up housetraining. How do we even begin to master this one? Annie has no idea what the difference is between the outside and the inside. How do you even begin to explain to a sightless dog that there is a place to do your business and the hardwood floor is not one of them. She needs assistance to get down the stairs, she won't cooperate with the whole collar leash affair, she can't get through the night with out having an accident, we are almost at our wits end.

Paul and I are doing the best we can for Annie, we mop up after her, we take turns at helping her down the stairs, we devote as much time possible to her well being, we are exhausted at the end of the day. Our lives have been forever changed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How difficult could this be?

Annie, her life begins. Paul and I are confident that we can do this. She's blind, we will help her, shouldn't be too difficult, Ruby will guide us, can't be that hard?

I'll just Google "how to raise a blind puppy" that will tell me everything I need to know, the local library has to have a book I can borrow, Amazon, I'll try Amazon! Guide Dogs For The Blind, no, that's not what I need. Yahoo Groups, someone over there must have all the answers, "my dog is 12 years old and going blind" getting closer, not close enough.
Alas, an amazing website, complete with New Owner Resources, tips, training, adoptions, toys for blind dogs, puppy page, house breaking, what not to do. I have found a wealth of information and some excellent suggestions to guide me.
Use bells on your shoes to help them find you, a tabletop fountain can be used a a water bowl, use textured materials to mark areas, throw rugs and decorative pillows are great, hang a potpourri sachet on the door, try using different scented candles in each room, try to express happy emotions!!

Can it be done? Look at that face, sweet as pie. "Can't be that hard" as I hold her in my arms.

As the days go by I read and re-read. I look at Annie and shake my head.

Water fountain? Raised water and food dish.
Bells on my toes? Hand held dinner bell.
Throw rugs and decorative pillows? Removed immediately.
Potpourri and scented candles? Only to cover the wafting odours of the many accidents on the floor.
Express happy emotions? Smiling on the outside and crying on the inside isn't as easy as it sounds.

In a perfect world with a perfect puppy everything would be fine. Within days Paul and I realize this is a massive massive responsibility, and that's an understatement.

Annie is tough. Annie wants nothing to do with scented candles. Annie will bite your hands so hard, she will make them bleed. Annie has no listening skills, no bladder control, no manners what so ever. Annie likes smoked salmon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Journey

Paul and I choose Route 1. It had been years since either one of us traveled this road. It will be a fast trip, but the excitement of meeting Annie for the first time keeps us going. 

We stopped for the night about an hour away from Calgary, Alberta. The next morning Ron and Dianne were waiting patienly for us at a crossroad gas station near Cochrane.

Could this be love?

Within an hour we had said our goodbyes. On the road again for the long journey home. Annie doesn't settle in very well. She is sitting quietly on my until we hit our first bump on the road. White fur can fly!! Oh my, this is going to be one heck of a trip home, there are alot of bumps in the road. Eventually, after an hour or so, she relaxes, while the entire time I'm telling her "you're safe" and holding her tight. Ruby in the meantime is simply sprawled out on the back seat of the truck, sleeping soundly knowing that Paul and I had the situation under control.
"Hey, there's a river, let's stop and stretch our legs?"
Yes Annie, you are free to run and  jump and bark and play all day.
You're safe.
We are getting closer to home now, Annie has settled down quite nicely, the scenery is gorgeous, classical music is playing on the radio, Ruby is still sleeping. Paul and I are speachless.
This was the moment of truth. What would she do? How do we go about showing her the life she will come to know?


Monday, November 12, 2012

Annie finds us.

When we met Annie our lives changed in a way we never thought possible.
How could a puppy make such a difference?
There she was, just an advertisement on Pet Finder. Something very special caught my eye.

SPECIAL NEEDS Leanne was born into the care of a backyard breeder. At a very young age, it became apparent that she was special and unlike the other pups in her litter. She was taken away from her mom & bottlefed at the tender age of only 2 weeks. As she grew, the breeder noticed that Leanne could not see very well. Realizing that she would be unlikely to be able to sell this particular puppy and make any profit, she surrendered Leanne to us. While Leanne is quite vision impaired, she can make out large shadows & shapes, so she is not completely blind. Her eyes have been examined by two veterinarians and an optometrist and no one can find any reason for these vision problems. Her eyes, retinas & optical nerves are all perfectly normal and responsive. Perhaps she was born blind, or maybe she suffered some sort of head trauma during birth or as a very young puppy. Regardless, there is nothing that can be done to restore her sight.

I can't tell you how many times I read this ad over and over again. Just out of curiosity, I emailed the link to my husband Paul with the title
Why did I have to see this?
A reply came back immeiately, let's go!!

Now, "let's go" meant a 2000 kilometer road trip from Vancouver Island, British Columbia to Calgary, Alberta. We only had three days to complete the journey. Truck and camper all loaded and all ready to roll. Myself, Paul and the most important passenger, Ruby.

Ruby? Let me introduce Ruby to you. She is also a Great Pyrenees, we raised her from the age of 8 weeks, she is now 1 and 1/2 years old and I couldn't think of a more appropriate guardian, mentor, canine companion for our new puppy. If there ever was a description for a family pet, I would have to say Ruby is the most loving, kind, gentle and compassionate dog we have ever had the pleasure of calling our own.

The moment arrived, Paul, Val, Ruby, please meet (whom we lovingly now call Annie) Leanne. Through tears of joy, and tears of sadness Annie was officially our newest addition to the family. Her foster parents Ron and Diane Steppacher taught us everything we needed to know, her likes, dislikes, the words to use, what foods she eats and what habits she had developed. I couldn't help thinking how they must be feeling after handing her over. We have kept in touch with the Steppachers, via email, text messages, and phone calls.

Fast forward to our arrival home and the introduction of Annie's new digs.
Large home in the country, fenced property, landscaped yard, a couple of old cats, a few chickens and loads of room to run and play. Annie has found Pyradise. She is scared when we carry her to the grass, Ruby is barking wildly at the new addition, Paul and I have no idea what we have got ourselves into as Annie starts spinning out of control. She has no idea of where she is, why she is there, or how she got to this place from the other place! It must have been terrifying for her. Round and round small circles, big circles, throwing herself backwards, falling over , barking uncontrollably. We watch this wild like behaviour with our eyes wide open. Paul and I discover very early on that we are the blind ones, Annie is home.

So yes, love is blind.