I’ve always loved pugs. Their squishy faces, curly tails, and big-dog personality just make them irresistible. In November 2012, Brendan and I adopted Bessie from Pug Pros, a rescue group based in Sacramento, CA. She is completely blind. I joke that one of her eyes looks like Mad Eye Moody, one of the characters from the Harry Potter series. Before we adopted her, I read the book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell by Alexandra Horowitz to get better insight into dogs’ senses. What I learned is that a dog’s sense of smell is their best sense and sight is helpful, but they aren’t dependent on their sight the way humans are. To put it in perspective, Horowitz writes that we might be able to smell a teaspoon of sugar in our coffee, but for a dog, they could detect a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools. With that in mind, I read what I could on the internet about blind dogs and began my journey with Bessie. I wanted to share some tips here because so many people ask me what it’s like to have a blind dog. They feel bad for her or think that it must be hard for her. But the truth is, Bessie is the most resilient, fearless, and silly pup I’ve ever met. I also wanted to help dissauge any fears potential adopters might have about adopting a blind dog.
- Be their seeing-eye human. The misconception a lot of people ask me is “You don’t take her for walks, do you?” I do. Like all dogs, she loves to sniff and explore new neighborhoods. But the biggest adjustment for me is realizing that I am her eyes. She usually walks behind me, adorably bumping into the backs of my legs sometimes. When reaching curbs, I usually stop and tap my leg so she knows where I am. Sometimes she stumbles on a curb, but she keeps on going.
- Make noise. I usually tap my leg or clap my hands and Bessie will find me. You’d be surprised how fast she can find me.
- Don’t move furniture. We’ve moved twice since adopting Bessie and I had read that you shouldn’t move the furniture once they are settled in. I found that she usually spends two or three days walking around the new area and bumping into things, but after that searching period, she knows the lay of the land. Now that we’re settled, I don’t move furniture so she knows her way around.
- Be patient. I’m very lucky because we also adopted Buddy several years ago and he’s a dream dog. Just sweet, mellow, and listens to commands (most of the time). With Bessie, I had to learn to be more patient with her. It takes a little longer to walk her and I need to keep an eye on her more. But she’s taught me how to be patient.
- Pet a blind dog on their side, not their head when first approaching. I call Bessie a little snapping turtle. If a stranger wants to pet her, I ask that they say her name and pet her side so as not to freak her out. She can sometimes snap at the air if a hand is trying to pet her head. Imagine if you had your eyes closed and someone reached for your face—it would freak you out too. It’s best to speak a lot and pet slowly. In general, she loves hearing voices and will wag her curly tail in response, so I find talking to her helps her know where I am.
I hope you will consider adopting a blind dog because they are just as kind, loving, sweet, and silly as their seeing counterparts. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments.