“Well, she’s really blind now,” the vet said at Miko’s most recent eye check-up. As Dr H loosened her hold, Miko blindly scrambled towards my general direction with a nearly toothless grin. Dr H laughed – “Blind as a bat but still so happy. And feisty!” Miko had not made the check-up easy for the vet – no whines or barks or bites, just stubborn pushing and twisting until Dr H had to call in reinforcements to control this tiny slip of a dog. That’s our girl – brave, happy, affectionate and stubborn. And now, she’s also blind in both eyes.
She’s been adjusting quite well to her blindness – better, I think, than I am adjusting to it. She remembers her way around our apartment, but sometimes now, she gets lost. She makes a turn too quickly, or turns just a few degrees off and ends up somewhere other than where she intended to go. When that happens, she would start sniffing around slowly, usually taking a few more wrong turns before she finds her way again.
Sometimes we find her staring and smiling happily at the wall. And if we call her, she wags her tail and walks right into the wall. Her vet said that perhaps our voices had bounced off the wall and had confused her sense of direction. We have now learned not to call her before checking her location and ensuring that she has a clear path in front of her.
Once, I came across Miko circling the kitchen which she never enters. She had gotten lost on her way to her pee-pad (which requires her to walk past the kitchen and make a turn after it). I had to guide her slowly to her goal with my voice and hand claps (I can’t snap my fingers), and I imagine that we were both equally relieved when she made it to her pee-pad successfully.
Miko still adores going out. But I now have to watch her very closely as she will walk into bushes or miss small steps very easily. Walking her is excruciatingly slow for us now as most of the time she’s sniffing the ground and moving in a zig-zag fashion. Usually, after some time of exploration, she spends the rest of our outdoors time on my lap people and dog-watching. These days she still enjoys that, even though she’s listening and smelling rather than watching now.
Love is the best teacher of patience. I am not by nature a patient person. Nor am I good at doing nothing to help when someone – or something – is having trouble. Miko’s blindness has been a training program in patience for me as I know that it is important for me to let her take her time and find her own way by scent. If I were to pick her up every time she gets lost, she would have even more trouble adjusting to her loss of sight. But it is heartbreaking at times watching her when it is still so fresh in my memory how she used to run and duck under tables and chairs deftly. Her lameness had never held her back, but now old age is catching up with her and she’s slowing down… and I along with her.
Miko makes me wonder so much. How does she remain so upbeat and joyful when she has another disability now? When she bumps into things, she’d just shake herself off and try again. When she bumps up against my leg, she still does her happy dance. She can go hungry and still be happy. Lame and now blind, she is still happy – that is, as long as she still has her ‘one thing necessary’ (Lk 10:42). For Miko, her one thing necessary is love. Perhaps that is the case for all dogs. As long as they are loved, as long as they have the one(s) they love with them, they can’t help being happy! It almost seems like they could lose everything else, but as long as they don’t lose their beloved, all is well in their world.
Perhaps dogs are so happy because they have an undivided heart. They are clear where their joy resides – in their beloved family. It is not that way with human beings is it? It is certainly not that way with me. Even as I hope and pray and try to grow towards being rooted simply in my one thing necessary, my relationship with Christ, I am constantly reminded by how easily I can lose my joy that my heart is still very divided. But the witness of the holy men and women who have gone before me and the witness of Christ himself shows me that a truly undivided heart is possible with the grace of God. That is what I pray for – a heart so totally absorbed and deeply rooted in Christ that no loss, no destruction, no persecution or suffering here on earth can rob me of my joy or peace. As Miko bears witness to me in my daily life now, so I pray that I might bear witness to others that as long as there is FAITH and LOVE, there is HOPE. And where faith, hope, and love reside, there will always, always be JOY.