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.