“She’s so beautiful.” That is how every conversation begins when someone meets our 8 year-old Collie/Sheppard mix Mozy. From the first time we took her to the vet to every person who stops to talk with us on the street, they are compelled to lean to pet her and tell us she is a beauty. It is so common that now when it happens Sally and I just look at each other and smile.
Mozy is the reason I got to meet my Sleater-Kinney rock-star hero, Carrie Brownstein. One day I was walking her a few blocks from our house and turned the corner to see a set for Portlandia. They were in the midst of one of their endless set-ups for a scene. Fred and Carrie were in costume, waiting at their starting marks. Mozy and I were just off to the side watching. Carrie kept looking at Mozy. Finally, she walked over and began petting her. “She is just so beautiful.” I told her Mozy was a rescue and gushed some fanboy gibberish. Later, I read that Carie was once volunteer of the year at the Oregon Humane Society. Small doggie world.
I have had 7 dogs in my life. Sally and I together have had 5 of those, all rescue dogs. For reasons we have never understood, Sal and I fall in love with the hard cases. My first dog, Dobbsie, survived Distemper and had grand mal seizures every couple of weeks. Our Border Collie, Ziggy was a shivering mess at the Humane Society. It took a year to stop her from running to the back of the house when cars drove by. Luna had been returned as unmanageable. Bodhi, was a puppy about to be abandoned in the parking lot of a Fred Meyer. Zoom, Mozy’s brother and my first little boy dog, was a second chance stray from Ashland. It took me a full day to help him go up and down a staircase. He had never seen one before and was terrified.
We lost Bodhi and Luna in the same horrible week. After at time, we rescued Mozy. She was skinny, the police had taken her from a drug house in Klamath Falls. Sweet and easily spooked she was my biggest doggie challenge. She quickly took to Sally. She is really Sally’s dog as Zoom is mine. You never really know the real story of a rescue dog but it was clear Mozy was hurt by a man. She always had to have a quick exit at her back to escape and would never let me share a doorway with her. She would not come to me. She would not chase any toys. All of my actions around her had to be in slow motion. A study in Zen. This was my life with Mozy. Not for weeks…for years.
Sally left for a trip and I had to figure out how to get Mozy in from the backyard. If I walked out, she would run to the farthest corner of the dog run and eye me through the fence slats. The only way I could get her to come in was to buy the super sized Milk Bones and show one to her from the door. I would then walk back into the house out of sight. She’s a chow hound. Eventually, cautiously, she would come in the house. I would maneuver behind her, shut the door and give her the bone. I am a dog guy. It so disheartening. In fact, Zoom’s appearance in our lives was for me to have a dog that was not afraid of me and a sibling who would eventually teach her some courage.
One night, years on, there was a break though. I had taught Mozy to catch tossed popcorn. When we were done with that little game she surprised me and came to the side of my reading chair, pawed the arm and wanted me to pet her. I was so excited. I looked at Sally and whispered, “Look…look…look!” Over the next year, Mozy and I became friends. No tricks to come back in the house. No dodging away when I came in the room. Mozy and I could just hang out. We had done it.
A couple of months ago something changed with Mozy. It seemed like she was favoring a back leg. She slowed down. We took her to the vet and all the tests were fine. Maybe a little arthritis? But when I tossed her popcorn now, she didn’t see them. The popcorn just bounced off her head. We went to a veterinary opthamalogist. (Just leave your credit card at the front desk.) After many tests, she said that Mozy just had some age-related vision loss. Nothing to worry about. That was April 1. There was no April Fools.
Within 2 weeks it was clear that Mozy was losing her eye sight. It is hard to tell what blindness means to a dog. Because I am home a lot, I speculate endlessly. I watch her move in the world and tell myself stories.
I am sure she still see light and dark? Are things at a distance just blurry or completely gone? Is everything blackness? No, it seems like she sees.something.
She must have the house and yard mapped in her head. Don’t change anything. Sally says she “bonks” herself when she runs into things, but look how ofter she doesn’t bonk. But she just got trapped in the corner. I’ll help her out.
The basement stairs are open and too slick. No more basement for both dogs. Too dangerous for Mozy. The food dishes need to come upstairs. That’s confusing too.
Is she keying off of Zoom? Does he understand she is blind? She seems to follow him sometimes. Is that what is happening?
Wait. She just ran up the stairs with Zoom to the window seat. They are both on the seat looking out the window to see Sal get out of the car. Is she looking too, or is that all just acting out a happy part of her day? Can see see a car in the distance or does she hear it?
Dogs have amazing senses of smell and hearing. It seems like she has turned up those skills. She adjusts if you are standing in her way. She finds her food and water dishes. The more we watch her, the more her life now seems like a series of little miracles.
But it’s hard not to think about what she is missing. We humans become the subconscious for our animals. We overlay our sense of loss on their doggie lives. I am trying not to do that. I don’t really think she has such judgement. She feels our love in our touches and soothing voices. She roams in from the backyard at the crinkle of a potato chip bag. The last few sunny days she did what she always does. She goes to her spot at the top of the small garden wall and suns herself. When she gets hot, she moves to the shade and cools off. That cycle goes on all day, interrupted only by the occasional trip to the water bowl.
Mozy is blind. On sunny days she sits regally, eyes closed, feeling the sun her face. She is beautiful.