My little black cairn terrier, Scottie, was a hit everywhere we went. He resembled Toto, from the Wizard of Oz and had a personality to match. He was friendly with everyone, had crushes on bigger dogs and followed them amorously, wagging his little stubby tail. He was that type of dog that gave little kisses, played with everyone but was very obedient. He was all black but had a white tip of hair on his left paw. He could run faster then most dogs, he loved walks, greeting people, and loved to have his snacks hidden around the house so he can find them. But what caught most people about Scottie was his ghostly blue eyes, because you see, Scottie was blind.
Scottie originally came to a Humane Society from people who did not want him. With a shattered rib cage the Society assumed the couple beat the dog as well. Scottie was diagnosed as a Type One Diabetic, was virtually hairless, severely underweight but lovable. A veterinarian student, Olivia, who volunteered at the Humane Society, decided this tiny creature did not stand a chance in a society geared to housing bigger dogs. She took him home as a foster mother, but was graduating, and moving out of the country. Scottie needed a permanent home, and fast. He would not last long in the Humane Society, as he took stress very badly.
My husband and I decided to adopt our first pet. We knew the dog was diabetic, and with previous experience with diabetic dogs we were lucky to get Scottie. However, he was blind. How could I take care of a blind dog? Well, we quickly learned.
Scottie was instantly a lovable dog. He taught me how to take care of him. As he entered our condo he aligned himself with the wall and started tracing the perimeter of the room. It was astounding to see this tiny dog lightly bumped into furniture and learned where he was in the condo. He quickly found his food bowl, and would follow sounds of the dishwasher, washer and dryer, and running water to learn where each noise came from. Scottie was set. However, we were moving into our first house, which has a lot of stairs. How would he function?
As boxes filled the condo and items were being moved in and out, Scottie stayed in his little bed. When we took him to the new place, he did once as before, leaning his little body around the walls of the main floor. However, I wanted Scottie to know the whole house was his home, so I must teach him how to go up and down stairs, but how?
Thankfully Scottie loves food. I would place a treat on the second step. He would smell a delicious goody and his nose would start to move. The amazing thing about anyone missing a sense is that every other sense becomes extremely heightened. I would pat the stair very loudly and he would climb up. We did this for a few weeks and Scottie learned to bound up and down the stairs. Another obstacle accomplished by a determined little dog!
On walks, Scottie would walk behind me instead of in front of me. The sounds of my footsteps guided him where he knew to go. He had a quick pace, but was constantly smelling the ground and air for me and listening to my footsteps. I cannot begin to imagine how overwhelmed he was with the smells and sounds of a new area; he loved walking.
Little Scottie was the neighborhood’s favorite dog. Many children would make little black dog ears and close their eyes pretending they were Scottie. They would play Marco Polo and other games to heighten their other senses. The children realized that Scottie was different, and they embraced the difference, to learn more about blindness. Scottie could smell and hear better, and once I saw that his nose was moving or his ears were up, I would start to listen to sounds I often ignored. Scottie taught me to use my other senses other then sight, which seeing human beings take for granted. I joke often I can hear and smell better because of this little dog. Everyone knew who Scottie was. He was a bit of a local celebrity with family, friends, neighbours, and even strangers!
Scottie had a strong aura; a huge presence for such a small dog. There is a saying “Seeing is believing” which is nice but does not apply to the real world in many cases. Particularly in Scottie’s case, I realized that “believing is seeing”. You see, Scottie believed he could function despite his blindness, believed he could be a regular dog, run in fields, chase squirrels, and enjoy human company. He believed this could happen, and therefore he “saw” results.
Unfortunately, Scottie died in my arms in 2008 from heart complications. As he was dying, he wagged his tail weakly to comfort me. Even in the shadow of death he was selfless. It was extremely difficult going out to the neighborhood children wearing little Scottie inspired dog ears to tell them that he passed. Hearing their tears, my family, friends, and even strangers cry because he had died hurt me deeply. However, he made an impact. The community, including myself, vowed to continue to adopt disadvantaged or abused pets. It’s been over two years and many of them have adopted sick or abused animals. I could flood this article with picture of pet’s endless success stories.
Rene Descartes, mathematician and philosopher’s most famous quote arguably is “I think, therefore I am.” Scottie did just that. He thought that he was a regular dog, and therefore he acted like a regular dog. He taught me to not rely on sight, to use every sense keenly He left us the message that believing is seeing, not the opposite. Well my dear friend, wherever you are, you were anything but regular, you truly were exceptional.