Monday, March 25, 2013

Carter's Adjustment

I has an eye, boom.
Sometimes I just stare at Carter's eyes. At the expanding and shrinking pupil, still sensitive to light but seeing nothing. At the strange ring of color in his iris. At the way he still stares at me when he hears me talk. He looks me right in the face. Always.

Over a year ago, Carter lost his eyesight. Perhaps it was a slow dimming, his world winnowing to the play of when the sun flashes across your closed eyelids. His family did not know he was losing his vision. When they had one child, they deemed it too difficult to care for the infant and Carter.

They dropped him off at a shelter. After the veterinarian established his blindness, the family was called up and told that Carter could not see. For some reason, they took him back, keeping him for another year until they had a second child and returned Carter to the shelter. For seven years, Carter has known one family. Now he must know another (mine), then one more (his permanent home, yo).

On his intake form, they listed his favorite activity as "sleeping". I suppose many dogs would claim snoozing as their favorite past-time. But after meeting Carter, I think this is a coping mechanism, a way to deal with an overstimulating world with no one in it to make it fun. He spent 1/2 his time outside, alone.

I know you are taking my picture
Carter likes toys. He likes squeaky toys and nylabones. When you present it to his nose, he understands the purpose of such things. And he is good at biting the toy, not your hand. I will work on developing some outdoor games, because Carter loves to play. Right now, our outdoor game is me running away from him and clapping while I call to him. Initially he would walk over to me, tail wagging, happy grin. Now he trots. Sometimes he even runs (often resulting in a large head bashing into my leg). I am using essential oils on his toys outside to see if that helps him track them down.

Carter slept because no one invested any time to play with him.

Carter loves people. When I first met Carter, he had just arrived after a 3+ hour car trip. He had been removed from the familiar settings of the shelter, plopped in a car with two other dogs and two new people, then transported 3 hours to a new house. But the moment he met me, he only wanted to find my face to bestow it with kisses. He did the same with my parents, who were visiting for the weekend. He hears a human voice and he thinks "good" and "safe" and "protector". Or, "provider of pets and attention".

Carter adapts well. I was unsure how a blind dog would navigate a new home and backyard. He created a spatial map of my house within 20-30 minutes of arrival. He still moves with care and still runs into things. The backyard took a couple sessions but he has mastered 85%  of it. The remaining 15% involve my patio plants, which he sometimes jumps into or knocks over. That's life.

Carter likes routine. What I've read about blind dogs is they like their safe zones to remain safe. I set up the office for him, and he will only drink his water off of the placemat I put in there. In the living room is another bowl of water and it must be to the right of the small table or he gets flustered.

Walks outside are currently intimidating for him. While his primary scent is his nose, he wants to follow up what he smells or hears with a glance. Car sounds confuse him, but he is comforted when I ask for a sit and stroke his massive head. We are working on better leash manners, but mostly I'll be working on making outdoor walks more fun, less stress.

Carter is a big mutt. He will probably be labeled as a Pit Bull, but I think he is a mixed breed dog with unknown parentage. He is 76 lbs, far too large for a standard sized American Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull). If you saw him from behind, you'd call him a Retriever. His head looks mastiff-like or Rottweiler-like...or maybe American Bulldog. He is a Nice Dog.

Please help, that dog was mean
Carter is very sensitive around other dogs. The first night, he heard and smelled Mina and Celeste. And when they would walk by his room, he would peer over the baby gate, nose working furiously, and whine. This morning, my dad helped me introduce him to Mina. It went acceptably well. I have to rethink dog-dog introductions with him. Mina is a bad greeter and pushy. She likes too much nose-to-nose contact and that is too much for Carter (and most dogs, I'm surprised she gets away with it so often).

Mina got grouchy with him and Carter responded out of fear, air snapping at her. But neither dog seemed angry over this encounter, just slightly stressed. Mina practiced her air of indifference, chewing on some grass and staring in the opposite direction. If Carter had been sighted, he would have appreciated the calming behaviors Mina was exhibiting. But Mina's charm was lost upon him.

I reintroduced them, allowing Mina to sniff Carter's butt. Carter got concerned and air snapped at her again, but Mina was unbothered and did not respond. She politely turned away. I ended the session with scooping Mina up and letting Carter sniff her rear-end. At the very least, his last encounter with Mina involved a normal dog-dog interaction. Mina didn't care and demanded a cookie for her hard work.

The interaction left Carter a little stressed. I notice that when he gets stressed, he runs into things more. He is not using his nose then. If you have tips on introducing concerned blind dogs to pushy sighted dogs (or dogs in general), please share. Ideally, I'd like to be able to have Mina and Carter together when I'm present. I'm not sure this will work, but I think it will work with the right dog. Mina just may not be that dog.

Okay, after this epic essay, I will stop. I'll be blogging more about living with a blind dog, fostering when my two other dogs are pushy ladies, and working on eliminating an irksome behavior in Carter (I'm waiting to see if my technique works before I post on its success!)

I'll also post when his adoption information is available. He will make a great companion for someone.

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