Thursday, December 20, 2012

The World Dimming

I take a lot of pictures of Mina because she is perfect. #pitbull #dog #vegandog
Does this make my eye look fat?
When I leave work, two dogs in tow, I am greeted mostly by moonlit paths or complete darkness. Sometimes the stars don't shine, obscured by ugly-beautiful clouds.Walking forward, no light to guide us, Celeste is sure, confident. Mina runs into me. Constantly. She seems perplexed by the sudden discovery that my leg is continually in her face.

It is interesting, really, that I am inspired to write about Mina's diminished vision. Around this time last year, I first realized Mina's poor eyesight when she plowed into a Toyota Prius in the supermarket parking lot.

Mina's vision is getting worse. It is hard not to notice her enlarged pupils, a white glaze slowly seeping across once vibrant eyes. The veterinarian says it is normal. I cannot deny this, that growing old and losing vital senses is "normal" but it is still hard for me.

A couple weeks ago, Mina ran into a chair that had been moved a few feet to the right at my office. For weeks, maybe months prior, Mina had traversed the darkened room with ease. It was all sense memory, her brain telling her muscles to move in a certain direction, a prescribed set of steps to get to the door. She could do it in the dark because she had unfailingly walked the same distance in the light. She trusts her brain implicitly.

Then, the chair! She walked right into it. And in the shadowed room I could see her shock. Her sudden intake of breath, a sharp jerk of her body backwards. A body in motion should stay in motion! For a few seconds she tried to re-adjust, adapt to this novel situation. I could feel her thinking, it traveled up her leash into my arm. And to be honest, my heart just broke. Shattered into a million little pieces, only to re-glue themselves together. Mina has that affect on me.

Begging #pitbull is begging
I see what you are eating and want it in my belly.
Before I downloaded my flashlight app, I would let the dogs guide me to the car. Celeste would get us to the car without too much fanfare (or running into fences). Mina was that way too. Now? Now Mina cannot see in the dark effectively. She bounces off my leg, she bounces off Celeste, and like a little bat she finds her way from those vibrations. Without us, she would plow into fences, trip over bushes, never find her way home.

I inadvertently found out how little she can see in the dark when I stupidly and callously let Celeste and Mina off leash on our way to the car, after work with only a sliver of moonlight to guide us. Celeste did her thing - run off to sniff and pee, sniff and pee, until my calls became vocalizations of annoyance. I trust her to show up. She always does. After a couple minutes, Celeste arrived panting and joyous, leaping gleefully and gracelessly into the car.

But where was Mina? I called and I called, hoping my voice would be a beacon. I could hear her jingling collar, so I waited. And waited. Finally, using the dim glare of my phone's screen, I ventured forth. I found Mina huddled and confused on the wrong side of the yard and parking lot. She was pointed in the wrong direction, turning in circles, trying so hard to find me. Her tail stuck between her legs, her back hunched, all of her senses guiding her wrong.

When she scented me, her eyes eventually followed suit and saw me. She relaxed, tail wagged, back straight and normal. What would have taken a lesser dog time to recover, Mina handled with all the grace possible. She marched past me and led the way back to the car, taking a few moments to sniff under the glow of a phone's light.

Mina is not blind. She sees fine in the day-time and with a source of light guiding her. Dusk, though, is no longer easy-peasy for her. Night-time, minus brilliant full moons, is simply shadows upon shadows muddying up her vision. I downloaded a flashlight app so I wouldn't trip over her and run into a fence. Our evening stroll to the car is much more enjoyable. I can let Mina guide us, tail flipped up in the air, ears pinned forward, nose working hard.

Mina's dream comes true
I am Mina and I am loved.
And if I forget my phone, I place Mina between Celeste and I. Slowly, we move down the path. This is hard for Celeste, but she makes do. I am careful to let my left leg brush against Mina, letting her know my location. Each and every time - not like during the day - I can feel the gentle pressure of her leaning into me. I am not certain, but I believe she does the same when she bumps into Celeste, that she leans in and off, that contact with a familiar friend so important.

Mina will one day go blind or virtually so. She will handle with stoicism and accept it swiftly and without much consideration. She will adapt, far quicker than I ever would. There will be no raging against the dying light for her. She does not need light to rage! And I will be there and hope I will not fail her by being too sad or upset or coddling.

The world may be dimming for her eyes, but her soul is one enormous brightly lit candle. (She would call that metaphor really tacky and cliche).

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