I stood very still in the dark. He was only five feet away from me and sniffing the air. He walked cautiously and looked around. Then he looked right at me, but did not see me. He was going blind, and I had not noticed.
Dusty had adapted so well, I had not even noticed his blindness. Until that night. Then I knew when I called him to me, and he turned and came to the sound, not to the vision, that our life was about to change. I was going to learn even more about loving this challenging rescue dog. He was going to teach me that I was responsible for him in a way I had never allowed myself to be responsible to anyone.
Returning from my business trip, picking up my bags from claim area and hopping on the “El” to get home quicker than a taxi would take in the late afternoon Chicago traffic. As I paid the driver and walked up the alley to my backdoor, I knew I would be wildly welcomed home, even if it was my four legged friend, Dusty. As always, his whole butt wags with excitement, not just the snip of a tail. He hears me, comes through the little apartment, and looks at me like I am the best treat in the world. But he really was already not seeing me, he was operating completely on sense of smell.
I had lived without a dog for many years, until I finally was settled, lived in one place, until I no longer traveled. Finally, I rescued this Brittany when I was in Colorado Springs. When Dusty arrived in my life as Dexter, he was a skinny, scared, half dead Brittany. One year of training, feeding, loving, water, freedom and his trust was almost restored in people. After two years, I could touch his hips without him flinching and jumping. After 3 years, he was very obedient to return when he wanted to be free off leash.
After four years, Dusty and I headed for our city adventure in Chicago for my work. To move from a house, a backyard, a deck, a local park, many rooms to explore and beautiful dry weather to an apartment, with a shared pee and poo area, two flights of stairs, and four rooms to wander around in during the day and rain was difficult for both of us.
He and I did our best to adapt both to the busy activity of constant noise and people, and to the restriction of our Chicago lifestyle. But it was stressful. An abused dog that has fought to live not only usually does not like people, but does not like other dogs very well. So in a city of 8 million, there are probably 3 million dogs. I realized this move was proving more stressful than either of us had expected.
But we persevered, walked in the cold windy Chicago winter, early darkness cut by the lights of the park, so we continued to try to recreate our Colorado fun and love of life. A dog teaches you to live in the moment, never miss an opportunity to chase something even if you don’t get it, and especially, keep adapting to constant life changes.
And so we walked home. He let me catch him and put him on a lead, but with him walking in front of me, like always. Not seeing, but keeping the old pattern of our partnership in place. At least for that night we could still pretend our lives were the same.