Lessons Taught By Sammy

Sammy Blog October 10, 2012

It has now been a year since we adopted Sammy. I will admit that a big part of our stepping forward to take this collie was that he was blind, but in the past twelve months I have come to the understanding that our reasoning was flawed. His is not a life to pitied; his is a life to be celebrated. In fact, the more I observe this dog, the more I am convinced that Sammy’s blindness might just be a blessing. Why?

We humans tend to judge based on what we see. We initially size a person up by their race, their age, their posture and their appearance and, after those assessments, we often can’t see beyond to what really matters — their hearts, their minds and their courage. Sammy isn’t concerned with the visuals, just like the statue of Lady Justice, he blindly judges on qualities that can’t be seen with the eye. He senses kindness, honesty and compassion. I have come to the conclusion that ability makes him far wiser than most human and perhaps proves his vision is better as well.

We have a good friend who played basketball at Kansas State University. In high school, if Shalee Lehning had been judged on appearance alone, she would have never earned a college basketball scholarship. One look told folks that Shalee was simply too slight of build and not athletic enough to play major college ball. As you would expect, it only took only that first look for most recruiters to write Shalee off. Yet one coach, who used more than just her eyes, who came with an only heart and mind, offered Shalee a full ride. What did Deb Patterson see in Shalee? She saw heart, drive, courage, determination, passion and faith.

As a K-State Wildcat, Shalee started for four years and won a Big 12 Player of the Year award. You can look in the record books and “see” the amazing things she accomplished in her career. But if you stop there, then you will be guilty of not fully seeing what Sammy would see in this young woman. Much more than appearance, it is heart, drive, courage, determination, passion and faith, qualities most overlook at first glance, that define each us.

In Shalee there are myriad of qualities not visible to those with only 20/20 vision. Thus she can’t fully be measured by what she accomplished on the court, but rather by the character and faith she shows in her everyday life. Perhaps, because so many once wrote her off by what they didn’t see, Shalee doesn’t judge by what she sees but by the qualities that a person exhibits in life. Thus, just like Sammy, Shalee is not blinded by first impressions based on race, posture or appearance. And shouldn’t we all be that way?

Sammy has taught me so much over the past year, but perhaps the most important lesson is that visional first impressions are usually flawed and paint a very limited picture of an individual. Thus while our eyes might make it easier to navigate in the world, it is our hearts combined with open minds that truly reveal the qualities that really matter in people. Sammy knows and practices this with every person he meets and I’m trying my best to be like this incredible dog.

If you would like to find out more about rescuing a special needs dog or cat, please feel free to contact me.

Sammy Blog September 3, 2012

It has now been eleven months since we welcomed Sammy, the collie who was born blind, into our home. During that time he has become an integral part of our family and is completely in sync with our lives. He knows our house and yard so well his blindness is never apparent. But, except for a few outings, such as a college softball game and walks around the neighborhood, his exposure to the outside world has been limited. In the past month we changed that in a big way!

To celebrate the college students coming back for the fall semester the community and Ouachita Baptist University created an event called Spotlight on Arkadelphia. On the night before classes begin, businesses, organizations and churches from all over the area set up booths that run from the west campus to the east campus across a bridge and then continue in a circle around the dorms. Each year thousands are a part of this event, the walkways are crowded, music is blaring, food, coupons and other freebies are distributed and scores take part in everything from outdoor Zumba routines to games and contests. So, to sum it up, Spotlight is boisterous, fun, loud, crazy and at times almost overwhelming for those of us in the human race. So how would a blind dog do in this environment?

We arrived just before eight and from the time we got out of the car, Sammy’s head was on a swivel as he took in all the new sounds and smells. At that moment I wondered if this grand experiment would work. Yet perhaps it was because he was on the lead he didn’t flinch at all. He was with me stride for stride, stopping when I did and moving through throngs of people without hesitation. Yet there was more to this adventure that a simple walk among enthusiastic people. It seems that everyone loves a collie so students and adults of all shapes and sizes couldn’t wait to meet Sammy. In those two hours he was petted by more hands than he had likely known in his entire life. And he loved every minute of it. On top of that I can’t begin to guess how many people posed for pictures with him. In almost every shot he flashed his happy smile that I see all the time at home.

When I consider the lesson Sammy taught me at Spotlight, I realize I’m not really opening up a world for Sammy as much as he is unveiling a wealth of understanding to me. We are often so concerned about our own limitations that we don’t immerse ourselves completely in the world. Being blind, deaf, in a wheelchair or having to use a walker or a cane shouldn’t limit us humans either. Neither should our age! If we wear a smile and an enthusiastic look we will be welcomed. And it will be our kinds words and lust for life that will be remembered long after our supposed or even imagined disability is forgotten. Thanks to this canine teacher, a dog most would have put down rather than giving him a chance at life, I am inspired to meet new challenges each day and I plan on doing that for as long as I live. That is a pretty powerful and timeless lesson taught by a once unwanted blind dog…don’t you think?

 

 

Sammy Blog August 1, 2012

Ten months into our adopting a collie that was born blind, I am amazed at my growth as a person. Note I didn’t say Sammy’s growth, I wrote MY growth. Sammy is happy, laid back and completely adjusted. In fact, that process took just a few weeks. Yet, as I look back on the time he has been in our home, I am most amazed at how I have changed. As I admitted in an earlier essay, going into this I was scared. I didn’t know if I could really handle the challenges of having a blind dog in our two-story house. In the weeks leading up to adopting him, I very much doubted my abilities to give Sammy what he needed. Now I wonder why I was ever nervous. Sammy has been as easy to deal with as any pet we have ever owned. I often go days without even consciously considering his blindness. But learning to accept Sammy as just another dog is not the very important lesson this remarkable collie has taught me. I would have never predicted this, but Sammy’s greatest lesson has come in changing my view of people!

Because of Sammy, I treat people with handicaps much differently that I once did. As I have learned to not put limits on Sammy, I have come to realize I should never limit the potential of people either. Thanks to Sammy, I fully recognize that people who are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair or supposedly limited in a myriad of other ways have the potential to enjoy life just as deeply and with just as much passion as I do. They don’t want or need me to feel sorry for them; they want me to accept them. In fact, most wish to be given the independence to reach beyond what others see as their potential.

Sammy has taught me not to limit others. He has taught me to accept those who are different. He has caused me to find wisdom, hope and promise when in the past I would have felt only compassion. Thanks to this amazing dog, I now seek out those who are different and learn great lessons in coping from them.

If you don’t want to see the potential of a special needs human then never adopt a special needs pet. Once that dog or cat shows you their potential, you will find your heart opening to accept and love people you might have avoided in the past. And once you get to know these people, you will come to realize that by changing your view of them they have also changed your view of the world. I think I knew this wonderful truth before we adopted Sammy, but having him in our home reminds me of that wonderful and hopeful message every day of my life. Yep, I really owe this dog, he is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had!

Sammy Blog June 26, 2012

We are coming up on our eight-month anniversary of having Sammy in our family. In my past blogs I have written about how we have modified our lives so that a blind dog could call our house his home. Today I want to get into something that goes much deeper than the minor adaptations we have made — I want to talk about the heart of this incredible collie.

As this is our first blind dog, I can’t tell you if this has anything to do with his disability, but Sammy is the sweetest animal we have ever had. He is not jealous or pushy; rather he defines unconditional love. He demands nothing and waits on us to have time for him. And with that huge grin that always seems to frame his face, we find ourselves taking more and more breaks just to give him gentle pats on his big old head.

At least three times a day he comes up to my desk and pokes his nose against my arm. After I briefly scratch him between his ears, he smiles and lopes off to find his favorite resting spot. He asks for nothing else than that brief show of affection.

Most dogs we have owned hide when they think they are going to be groomed. All Kathy has to do is click the side of a brush and Sammy jumps up and runs over to her. To this big collie, being brushed is the greatest game ever invented. After about a minute, he dashes a few feet away, stops, turns and shakes his head. He is ready to play tag. When Kathy touches him, he races back over for more grooming.

Sammy also loves to "pet" our cats. Blind or not, he finds them, standing to where they can walk through his legs in a figure eight pattern as they rub their backs and sides.

Another great Sammy move is when we come back from a walk. Within a few feet of our porch he begins to elevate his front paws so he looks like a prancing horse. He knows the steps are coming and has altered his way of walking to take them in stride.

Finally, he is a big old clown. He may not be able to see you smile, but he can sense it and he loves to do silly things to get a laugh. That might mean carrying his water bowl over to you or trying to share a chair with you. When it brings a giggle, it makes him smile! I guess he just wants to be everyone’s best friend and sees no one as a rival.

I have had some incredible dogs in my life and each has been special, but none have exhibited the heart and soul I have seen in Sammy. Even though he asks for so little, you can’t help but give him your whole heart. I think the best word to describe him is gracious. He gives without demanding anything. He is therefore a model for how all of us should live our lives.

 

Sammy Blog: April 30, 2012

In the now eight months that Sammy has been a part of our home there have been very few issues concerning his blindness that have not been easily addressed. Thus as an owner I have not been challenged much more than I would have been by adopting a non special needs dog. But this past week something happened that forced me to come up with a fresh strategy to help Sammy through a new wall of fear.

Our wooden stairs begin in our main downstairs hall, go up eight steps to a landing overlooking the living room then make a 180-degree turn where eight more steps lead to our second floor. While they spend most of their days downstairs or outside, the dogs sleep and are fed upstairs. Until the last week Sammy had never had any trouble navigating the stairs, he simply took them one step at a time. That changed on Monday! As he was methodically headed down, our sighted collie, Baby, came charging by him, accidentally bumping Sammy and causing him to slide down eight steps to the landing. He wasn’t physically hurt but his confidence was shattered. Suddenly he wouldn’t tackle going up or down the steps even if he was on a lead.

It seemed the reasons for his fear was all based on footing. Getting knocked down by Baby had convinced Sammy that the wood on the steps was like ice. He didn’t trust it. So something that had never been a problem now was huge obstacle. What could we to do to help him regain his confidence?

The answer to that question began to take shape with a trip to Walmart where I purchased eight 30 X 20 inch pieces of bound carpet. I cut them in half (30 X 10) and affixed each piece to the middle of our steps using special carpet tape (this adhesive can easily come up without damaging the wood). I then brought Sammy over to the steps and placed his right front paw on the carpeted step. He sniffed it once before slowly trying it out on his own. Within a minute he was once again confident with his ability to navigate the steps. I thought the problem was solved but then I looked at Baby. Our sighted collie was now completely spooked by the carpet covering the wood. She wouldn’t go near it. So I actually had to put a lead on Baby and teach her how to walk on carpeted steps. I hadn’t expected that.

Right now there are many special needs dogs and cats that need someone who had the courage to give them a home. The things you will learn from adopting one of those animals and the love you will receive will make your days brighter while giving you a new perspective on your own life.

Sammy Blog: March 1, 2012

Six months ago today we officially adopted Sammy. Now lots of folks welcome new dogs into their family each and every day, but the fact that this collie was born blind made this adoption a bit different. As I have related in my previous blogs, the fears we had about a blind dog being able to fit into our home were completely unfounded. He adapted so quickly and completely we often forget he is blind. Yet there are still times when his "handicap" hits home.

Last Sunday afternoon I took Sammy to his first college softball game. Ouachita Baptist University was playing Henderson State. Both schools are located in the same community and have been fierce rivals for more than a century. Thus there was a large and vocal crowd in attendance. As you consider the sights and sounds of the game also consider what Sammy must have been thinking.

After arriving I sat on a grassy hillside along the third base line with a very nervous collie beside me. Sammy was likely hearing more strange and varied sounds than he’d heard in his entire life. There was the ping of the bat, the thump of the ball in the glove, the players chattering, the music playing over loudspeakers between batters, the umpire’s calls, the hundreds of fans cheering, talking, yelling and booing and even the sounds of cleats as a few bench players strolled on the sidewalk just in front of us retrieving foul balls. For those of us gifted with vision it is easy to understand that none of the myriad of different elements of softball offered any real reason for concern. But imagine your impressions if you couldn’t see what you were hearing.

At first Sammy’s head shot in every direction as he tried to figure things out. For a half an inning he was as uneasy and confused as I had ever seen him. During that time I wondered if I had made a mistake in bringing him to the ballgame. Then, with no warning, he eased to a spot beside me and a smile broke out on his face as he excited followed the game and all its distractions with his ears. In fact, when the final out was made and the Ouachita Tigers claimed victory, he didn’t want to leave. He was simply having too much fun. And why not? Scores were mobbing him asking me if they could pet this dog that looked like Lassie. None of them picked up on the fact he was blind.

Later the night after the day of the game, I headed back to the front door and Sammy charged up beside me hoping we were going to ìhearî more of this new world that had been opened to him at the softball game. The next home game we will be going back to "watch" and "hear" the Tigers.

Six months into this experiment I have found there is no reason to shelter your blind dog. Sammy is naturally apprehensive when it comes to new things (aren’t we all), but once he settles in he enjoys these experiences. So don’t cheat your blind dog. Take him into the world and allow his unique senses to enlarge his understanding and appreciate of life. In the process you will gain a new vision in how many wonderful things there are out there to enjoy with your dog (blind or sighted). Don’t miss any of them!

 

February 15, 2012

It has been a bit more than five months since we adopted Sammy. If you have read my other blogs you are well aware that I was wondering how difficult it would be living with a blind dog. Time has proven that ninety-five percent of the time there is no difference in dealing with a blind animal and one that is fully sighted. In fact there are many days I simply forget Sammy is blind.

If you lived with us you would understand what I mean. Sammy has no problems getting around our home or fenced backyard. As long as furniture hasn’t been moved he wanders through his habitat with the ease of our sighted collie. About the only time I notice his lack of vision is when I leave a chair out from the dining room table or have a recliner popped open in the living room. As he doesn’t expect those things in those positions he does walk into them. At that point he backs up, a confused expression on his face, adjusts his course and moves around the object.

About the only other time I am aware of his blindness is when I am watching him play in the backyard. As he runs at top speed across the grass, just barely missing trees, I get so caught up in his amazing speed I forget that he might be unaware of where I am. It took me a couple of times of having the big collie bang into me to learn to step out of his way. After all, unlike the trees that never change position in the yard, I am often in unexpected places.

So for those of you wondering if you can adapt to owning a blind dog let me assure you it requires far less adaptation that dealing with a puppy. Beyond not suddenly rearranging all the furniture, the most important thing I’ve found you need to know is that the dog will listen much more intently to your voice than a sighted dog. It is your voice that provides security and comfort, assures him everything is all right and alerts him to where you are. Therefore the tone you use with a blind dog is his major gauge of trust. Speak kindly, touch softly and praise him and he will stick to you like glue. And if your blind dog is running in the backyard, speak, sing or hum in order to let him know where you are. If you don’t you just might be picking yourself up off the grass.

 

Christmas Day 2011

The holidays are a big deal at our house and throughout December we have so many different people that come and go our front door. In fact that door gets opened almost as much as the automatic entries at some department stores. This major disturbance in our normal routine would be a challenge to any pet, but add in the element of blindness and it ramps up that challenge to the ninth degree.

Because he is blind, Sammy hones in on smells and sounds. Imagine for a moment how overloaded those two senses can become with as many of thirty people in the house at one time. Add to this a chorus of joyous voices almost singing out Merry Christmas over and over again. Finally, almost everyone who comes to our home wants to meet our remarkable blind dog, so now that puts a bit more added pressure on this special collie.

During group events at our home Sammy’s natural instinct is to go to his bed in the master suite and hide. He simply has no interest in meeting the guests that have walked in our threshold. So what is the dynamic that changes Sammy from a shy recluse into a creature ready to be a part of the action? It is something as simple as a leash.

Sammy needs the leash for security. As long as he has it on and feels either Kathy’s or my presence on the other end, he is comfortable and confident. With the leash in place he seems to enjoy hearing new voices, having a hundred different people patting his head and all the attention his teddy bear persona brings his way. The leash is a small thing, maybe a bit of a crutch, but it makes all the difference in the world.

We all have crutches we lean on during challenging times, so why should it be surprising that a sight-impaired collie needs one as well? In many cases the element that proves time and time again that we are needed and loved is the touch of a pet. Pets give our lives value and substance. Kathy’s and my world has been greatly enhanced this year by adopting a special needs dog. Maybe in 2012 you might consider saving one as well. You’ll be surprised what you learn about life, love and yourself through this one act of giving. It will be like having Christmas everyday of the year.

 

 

December 6, 2011

We have had Sammy over two months now and during the time he has perfectly fit into our home. He gets along well with our other animals and is beginning to bond with the humans who come into our lives on a regular basis. In many ways he is now just another member of our family who knows our world so well we often forget he can’t see. So what is so different about dealing with a blind dog over a sighted one?

In the past I have mentioned a few of the things that specifically deal with his blindness. In truth each of those have been very obvious. Yet there is one thing I have only recently come to understand that is far more subtle. Sammy needs toys. Why? The reason is born in the way our sighted dog (Baby) sees the world as opposed to how a blind dog deals with the world.

When Baby steps outside her eyes are constantly moving. She is ready on a moment’s notice to chase a squirrel or bird. She observes the passing traffic through a crack in our wood fence and alerts us when anyone walks or jogs by. There is a stand of dense trees and untouched woodlands beside us filled with interesting things for a dog to view. Baby knows when a raccoon or a deer has wandered into this domain. She follows their movements with great interest. Perhaps, because of her vision, Baby is not the least bit interested in toys. Why should she be? She has a fascinating world to watch that seems to completely hold her interest.

Sammy can perceive our world through sound and scent, but he cannot see the elements that make it so interesting to Baby. Without vision it is the tactual and auditorial that hold his attention. Thus he enjoys toys that make noise or have a unique feel. He loves to toss a large bone toy into the air and catch it. He also drags that toy in front of Baby trying to get her to play with it too. And nothing seems to cause him to grin as much as making a ball squeak.

Any dog can and will suffer from boredom. They must be challenged. But much more than a sighted animal a blind dog needs for you to come up with special ìtime passersî that are made for his or her unique senses. These toys become very important elements allowing sight-impaired dogs to fully enjoy life.

A final word: If you don’t have a toy out there, dogs like Sammy will invent their own. That could mean a stick that has fallen in the yard, shoes left on the porch or even a Christmas inflatable. So if you value your footwear or holiday decorations, go to Walmart or your pet supply store and find a few toys that will appeal to your blind dog.

November 14, 2011

We have had Sammy for only six weeks, but in many ways it seems like he has always been a part of our home. During this time it is amazing how easily he has mapped out our house and yard. In watching him go through the normal facets of dog life most people find it hard to believe that he is completely blind. But there are subtle differences that call for owner adaptation that might be surprising.

If I drop something on the ground his nose will pick it up the scent, but it is not a quick process. So when feeding treats I simply can’t drop them in front of Sammy or our sighted dog will get them before Sammy can. To help him I tap at the spot where the treat is located and he has learned to move immediately to where the sound originates. This using sound as a locator beacon has already become such a natural part of our relationship that Sammy knows immediately when I am trying to ìshowî him something.

Sammy is also much more sensitive to the tenor of my voice than other dogs have been. He listens for tone. He can sense much more quickly than Baby (our sighted collie) if there is tenseness in the way I speak. Thus I have found I really can’t yell at Sammy, if I do, he is going to find a place to hide. So in correcting his misbehavior I use a softer but still firm voice.

This week marked a big step in Sammy’s socialization. We host about 30-40 college kids at home each Sunday night for a meal and a devotional. For the first five weeks he was here we put Sammy in our bedroom and closed the door. Being around this many strangers at once would have traumatized him. This week we let him stay downstairs as the kids arrived. He was still a bit nervous, but he didn’t run from our guests. Rather he allowed many of them to visit with him and pet him. After a while he decided on his own to go upstairs and ìobserveî the proceedings from our landing. As my wife is a university professor and we often have large numbers of kids in our home, this socialization is essential to his becoming a full part of our household. I believe by the middle of the spring semester he will be ready to fearlessly welcome all our guests into our house.

So are there unique challenges to adopting a dog that is completely blind. But I can assure you they are minor and adapting to them is natural. Seeing Sammy become more confident and realizing that in the process I have grown a great deal as a person makes each of these adaptations more rewarding than I can begin to tell you. It is an experience you will have to have to fully appreciate.

 

October 29, 2011

Over the first month of our experience with Sammy I have been unable to count the number of times I’ve been asked, ìWhat is the hardest thing about having a blind dog as a pet?î The answer to the question might well surprise you.

Initially I figured that I would have to be Sammy’s eyes. I quickly discovered that simply wasn’t the case. He mapped out our house in a matter of hours and had no problem mapping out our large, tree-covered, somewhat hilly backyard. Those who watch him navigate these areas are simply amazed when we explain that Sammy can’t see.

So if I didn’t have to be his eyes then what is the largest adjustment I’m making for his handicap?

It is all about voice. Sammy judges inaction with humans based on pitch and tone. I have discovered that I must speak a bit differently when I talk on the phone because Sammy often shies away from me during these times. Last night when I raised my voice to scold our sighted collie for stealing one of Sammy’s chew sticks, Sammy reacted by racing upstairs. I guess because he could only hear my voice and not see me; he thought he was in trouble too. Thus I will have to use my voice a bit differently than I have in the past. That is an adaptation that sounds easy, but reversing years of speech habits might take me a while. In the future I will try to scold Baby or our cats more by pointing than by raising my voice.

There is another way I have had to adapt. I am not sure if this is true of all blind dogs, but Sammy tends to be shy. The way we have eased him into meeting new people is by using his leash. When he has the leash on with one of us holding it, he seems to have the security he needs to feel confident about the new voices and smells in his life.

So one month down and it has been one of the most rewarding months of my life. As you can see by what I have written he is teaching me much more than I am teaching him. So far having a blind dog is not really any different than having a sighted one. In fact, I now find myself forgetting that Sammy was born completely blind.

October 18, 2011

Today marks sixteen days with Sammy as a member of our family. These days have been interesting, but not nearly as trying as I expected when we agreed to adopt a blind rescue dog.

I will admit there was a bit of fear when we made this step. I wondered if we would be equipped to deal with a special needs dog. I questioned if he would be able to get around in our two-story — filled with furniture and collectibles — house. I wondered how he would do in our tree-covered yard. I wondered if he would be able to go for long walks through the Arkansas hills with us. Just a few days proved those fears completely unfounded.

Sammy mapped out our house and yard in a matter of hours. He runs into no more stuff than does our sighted collie. Those who visit us don’t even realize he is blind. In other this part of the transition has been very, very easy.

Like any new pet, Sammy has taken a bit of time getting used to our routine. He initially got up ìtoo early,î but over two weeks his schedule has come to match ours.

Another issue to deal with was food. Some of the food we have been feeding Baby was apparently too rich for Sammy. Thus, through experimentation, we have adapted his diet to suit his needs. He was also used to only eating once a day, so it took him a few days to realize we feed twice a day. Thus he was naturally distressed there wasn’t more on his plate at breakfast during those days.

Walking him has not proven difficult at all. Even though he can’t see he pushes fearlessly into the world ahead of him. He does tend to wander a bit from side to side rather than walk in a straight line. Thus I have to keep him on a shorter leash to avoid bumping him. Other than that there are no issues. If you can walk a sighted dog you can walk a blind one.

So have there been any real adjustments problems? Really only two.

The first is socialization and this issue has nothing to do with his blindness. Coming from a background of neglect and likely abuse, Sammy is very cautious around strangers who come into our home. He keeps his distance and almost hides from them. We have learned that when he is on a leash, he is secure. So we have found it best to introduce him to our friends by keeping him on a leash.

Because he is not sight oriented but rather gets to know you through smell, he is also sometimes confused when we have been with other people and then greet him. In some cases he even shies away from us for a few moments during those times. I am guessing he smells the strangers and can’t sense where they are. As he gets to know our voices better and completes the bond with us as his forever partners in life, that issue will likely be put to rest as well.

So at this point this experience with the blind dog has been much easier than dealing with a puppy. On top of that, watching Sammy deal with his disability has proven to me the incredible potential of not just every dog, but every person as well!

October 3, 2011

We have welcomed a new member into our family.  His name is Samson and he is a dog that was rescued by Almost Home Rescue group of Ohio (www.almosthomeohio.org). Sammy is a mahogany collie between four three and four years old.  He was born with five different eye issues including detached retinas. Thus he cannot even see light and has always lived in a completely dark world.  Up until seven months ago he was locked in a cage in a small mobile home with more than seventy other collies. He lived in filth, had never been to a vet and didn’t have enough to eat.  Naturally when these dogs were rescued the blind dog was viewed, as being one that most thought should be put down. Thanks Almost Home and two incredible women, Grace Bowels, who fostered Sammy, and Charlene Molnar, who keeps the options for special need dogs open, Sammy was saved. Over the past seven months Grace has worked with wonders with him. She even drove him from Michigan to Central Illinois in order to get him into our hands. Now Sammy is home with us.

My initial observations on his trip to Arkansas with me and his first day in our home have been fascinating.  It took him less than an hour to completely map out the first floor of our house.  He now has our large backyard mapped out as well. He can run full speed and avoid the trees, land chairs and our fence.  He had learned to climb the steep steps up to our second floor, but has yet to master going down by himself. That will take a while and some work on my part. As he is blind, stepping off into what seems like nothing on a wood service is not a natural thing to do. Thus Kathy and I will have to prove ourselves to Sammy in order for him to have faith in our lead.  I know that will come and we don’t mind waiting for it.  

He is an incredibly happy dog. He is curious and alert. He wants to make friends with everyone one and everything (including the cats). Tiger is not sure about this canine-feline friendship yet. He is also a gentle soul who prances when he walks. In many ways he seems like a teddy bear. His ability to so quickly map our home tells me he is very smart, thus training him should be easy. My first walk with he and Baby (our other collie) was interesting. He tends to wander from side to side a bit, rather than walk in a straight line like most dogs I have owned. To me this seems natural as he is not sight oriented. He also seems to listen to Baby's steps to judge where he needs to be and what kind of surface is ahead. Thus I can see how his “vision” works and so I am developing a language to help him know what is coming.

About once an hour he comes over to my desk and lays his head on my knee, but he is not demanding. And he loves to hear the sound of either Kathy's or my voice. To watch his ears and face as I talk to him is simply amazing. It is like he is trying to understand each nuance and tone.  

With good fortune we will have Sammy for at least a decade. I am sure that during those years we will learn far more from him than he will from us. His being blind will no doubt enrich our lives and likely teach us how to deal better with humans who have disabilities. In fact, I can see Kathy adapting new strategies for the classroom from what Sammy shares with us. 

I plan on writing much more about Lessons From Sammy as we continue forward. For the moment I just wanted to share with you our initial observations

Lessons Taught By Sammy
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