Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

February 27, 2014

Saving Beauty: a blind and deaf dog

Bill Dalton
The Andover Townsman

---- — I saw a cocker spaniel a while ago and I’ve thought a lot about him. He was totally blind and deaf from birth, but a good woman raised him anyway.

My wife and I were at a house party and the woman brought the dog. She wasn’t showing him off, but she was proud of him. The dog was wandering around because he’d been there before, and the Boston terrier that lived in the house got along with him fine. At first I didn’t know the dog was blind and deaf dog; he seemed like a normal dog.

I bent down to pat him, first offering my hand in front of his face — something I do with dogs unfamiliar with me. A dog’s most acute sense is olfactory. He sniffed my hand, and I patted him on the head, and he wagged his tail.

A few minutes later, standing in front of him, I reached down again and scratched his back, but this time he startled a bit. Seeing this, the owner explained to me the dog’s condition.

I was surprised and asked, “Completely deaf and blind?” She said yes, and said she’d had him almost from birth. In fact, the dog had a brother with the same condition and the woman’s sister had him. I said that was awfully nice, and I bent down to look at the dog.

Although believing her, I found that it was difficult to believe. It was obvious from looking at the eyes they were useless, being fully opaque. When I spoke, the dog reacted in no way. Then he wandered off, navigating around numerous legs in the kitchen — sniffing, like all dogs do, for an opportune fallen crumb and hoping that someone might offer a morsel. A few people did.

The dog was a beautiful albino, with white-as-snow, soft-as-silk fur pleasant to touch. I thought he was as beautiful as a dog can be, and he liked to be patted, wagging his stubby tail in response.

“You keep him very clean,” I said to his owner. She smiled, saying his fur is naturally soft. I asked, “He does everything based on his sense of smell?”

She said he also had other senses that worked for him, like feeling vibrations in the floor, and she added that he could tell when she was thinking about him. She said that all she had to do was think that it was time for him to go out or be fed, and he’d react.

We didn’t discuss whether that was due to ESP or whether canines’ incredible sense of smell, perhaps further enhanced in this dog, might detect small changes in his owner that give him information.

There is little else to say except that this story is about kindness, not giving up on a life, and love — a woman’s love for animals. I can’t get that dog out of my mind and don’t want to.

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Bill Dalton writes an occasional column for the Andover Townsman. He can be reached at billdalton@andovertownie.com.