I Am Because We Are

This is a guest post by Barbara.

For as long as I can remember I have always had a dog in my house, whether it was Spook, Tarka, or Piper. Growing up, the dogs were ‘mine,’ but in reality, they were my parents.  When I moved out and was on my own, I got my first dog, Rocky. When Rocky died, I got Moose. And when Moose passed, my youngest daughter and wife got Bernard. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Bernard, but he has never felt like my dog. He is my wife’s dog through and through, and I’m okay with that. Bernard came from Anita at the rescue organization RezQ, and even if my heart didn’t immediately fall for our new dog, it fell for this nonprofit and I visited their webpage often.

Big Brother Bernard and Ubuntu

About 9 months after we got Bernard, I was skimming the photos and stories on the RezQ website, when a small, black fuzzball caught my eye.  He was going by the name of Simon (as in Simple Simon), and he was born blind. Week after week I went back to the website, and week after week Simon was still there, needing a forever home. So more out of curiosity, I started reading about living with a blind dog.  The weeks turned into months, and one day I mentioned Simon to my family.  He was now being fostered in our town and to make a long story short, we went, we saw, and I fell in love. On that first visit, we took Bernard, because his input was just as important as any. Bernard found his way to help Simon, leading him around with a pull toy. Our adoption was finalized that day, and the puppy was ours. The first thing I did was change his name from Simon to Ubuntu (Boone for short). Ubuntu is a South African philosophy that, simply put, means, “I am because we are.”

In many ways, we were ready to have a blind dog in our home, but many things caught us off guard, and four years later we are still learning how to help Boone with his journey. He quickly learned the layout of his new home, where the back door was and how to get to the fenced yard. Aside from the standard commands of ‘sit’ and ‘stay,’ we added ones to help him navigate. He knows ‘up’ and ‘down’ (when he is physically going to move up or down), ‘left’ and ‘right’ (when he needs to turn that direction). He knows the command ‘watch,’ this is what we yell when he is about to run headlong into something and we need him to slow down and pay attention.  Boone is smart, but the thing that amazed us right away was that he was so trusting and brave. The first month we had him, he figured out how to climb onto the sofa, and he was so excited. But then he couldn’t get down; he couldn’t reach the floor by stretching down. If I ever need a visual for what a blind leap of faith is, I have one. It was Ubuntu launching himself into the air, trusting that the floor would be there.

Boone and his ‘Baby’

My sweet boy has grown into a huge, strong boy. Maturing has come with difficulties. Boone is the alpha dog, but because he is blind, he cannot read the body language of other dogs. For his safety and the safety of other dogs, we do not take him to the local dog park, and he doesn’t have play dates with other dogs. This past year he got very aggressive over food. He started guarding his food dish and even attacked Bernard and our kitten. ALL were ok, just afraid of Boone’s behavior. To be honest I was afraid too. What was going on, what if he hurt them, what if he attacked a child… all these thoughts, and so many, more went through my head. My heart ached for Ubuntu. We turned to two professionals and with their help, we have found solutions. We are now very consistent with food. The dogs are not allowed in the kitchen when we are cooking and eating. If even the smallest piece of food is dropped on the floor it is picked up immediately. When we feed our dogs, they eat in different rooms and when they are done, their bowls get picked up and put away. Our one helper said that Boone was insecure and that he needed his own place and things. So, Ubuntu got his own bed, a comfy place where he feels safe. He likes his bed at the hub of the house, where a hallway meets up with several rooms.

Like Linus from the Peanuts cartoon, Boone got his own security blanket, except it is a sock monkey that we call ‘Baby.’ He carries it with him 95% of the time, and for reasons only Boone knows, it makes him feel safe.

Boone and Barbara

Last month RezQ held a local adoption event, and 15 dogs found their forever homes.  We volunteered all day for this organization that has brought so much joy into our home. At dinner following the event, we asked Anita if they remembered ‘Simons’ history.  Apparently, a patrol car was driving on the highway when the vehicle in front of him threw something out of the window. The officer pulled over, searched the side of the road and found it had been a small puppy, thrown out like garbage. The office called Anita at RezQ and told her he had just found a puppy, and there was something wrong with it. Would she be able to take it? I am so glad she did. Ubuntu amazes me daily. He is such a happy dog with has a big smile on his face. He thinks he is a lap dog and has no idea of just how big he is. He plays in the snow during winter and swims in the lake in summer. He trusts that we will keep him safe and in return, he gifts us, unconditional love.

If you want to know more about Rescue dogs from RezQ, click here.

Barbara is a blogger and traveler who makes her home in Helena, Montana. To follow her adventures of A Year of Rediscovery, follow her blog.

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