The Blind Puppy That Saw Right Through Me
How Adopting a Special Needs Pet Changed My Life
Working in a veterinary hospital means either having such a slow day that you’re detailing kennels and reorganizing cabinets, or so busy you skip lunch and suddenly it’s midnight - there’s no in between. On this particular day, when I noticed a persistent whining noise coming from a kennel in the hospitalization area, it was the latter. It’s literally my job to keep track of everything going on with any patients in the hospital, so I quickly investigated the source of this noise and found a tiny culprit was causing the ear-numbing sound.
I walked up to the kennel and there sat the most peculiar (and the loudest) puppy I’d ever seen. This 10-pound spotted boy had one swollen blue eye and another one that was abnormally small and glazed over. In a second, it clicked that he either had a severe vision impairment or was blind altogether, hence the reason for his visit. I put myself in his place, imagining what it would feel like to be blind, in pain, and placed in a cold, unfamiliar area. He was right to feel scared. I scooped him up and held him against my chest as I stuffed his kennel with blankets and toys, then reassuringly cozied him back into his temporary space as he waited to be seen by the vet. I wasn't sure if any of it would be enough to console him, but he didn't cry at all for the remainder of his visit, so I called it a success.
The blind puppy was a hot topic at the hospital for a few days after his appointment, as unique medical cases often were. I eventually learned that he was a Catahoula Leopard Dog and his blindness was congenital, which isn't that uncommon for this breed. To my understanding, he'd been brought in by the concerned neighbors of a breeder, who didn't want much to do with him since he wouldn't be profitable. Our veternarians mutually agreed that his condition would likely worsen and that he would benefit from having his painful eyes removed. His guardians took him home to weigh their options and work for me was business as usual for a while.
My favorite work day was the day the crying puppy was brought back. The neighbors agreed to surrender him to us so that we could perform his medical procedures and adopt him out as part of the small orphanage we also ran. I could've cried when I was given the assignment of choosing his name, since I had "spent the most time with him". From then on, I spent all my free time at work with Soybean.
Everyone knew if Soybean wasn't in his kennel, he was with me. He'd sit with me through client phone calls, medical notes, and prescription filling. I would frequently check on him in his kennel to make sure the sanctuary I designed for him remained accessible and comfortable. I would talk to him often to reassure him that he had nothing to be scared about and let him know I'd always be nearby. I'd even come in on my days off to make sure he had sufficient stimulation and playtime.
Soybean became ingrained in my routine, and at a very taxing time to be in the veterinary field, he became my favorite part about coming to work. I watched him reach milestones, I consoled him, I iced his incisions after his eye enucleation surgery where both eyes were removed, I administered his medications, I stepped away to show him new things outside every day. If you haven't yet experienced love for a pet, this is going to sound overly romanticized, but I felt such bliss watching him be happy that I'd think to myself if I died tomorrow, I would be satisfied with the life I lived because of him. We would just have these sweet moments under the sun where he would express such joy over hearing the sound of my voice alone. "Here I am," I'd repeat until he'd find me, and when he did, his whole body would wag in enthusiasm. Needless to say, when I found out he had an approved adoption application, I was crushed.
Don't get me wrong, I wanted Soybean to have a better life than being stuck inside a kennel at a noisy hospital, so I was happy for him. I always believed he deserved all of the space in the world to run and play. He deserved to meet other dogs and be properly socialized. He deserved a big bed all to himself and all the toys he could dream of. The problem with his new life was that I wouldn't be in it any longer. While he'd likely soon forget me, I would have to miss him and hope from afar that his new family would give him everything and more.
Realizing that I was losing him made it click for me that he should have gone home with me all along. Part of me knew this from day one, but I suppressed the urge because I had already adopted a puppy a few months prior. This made for a total of two dogs and just one me, so my hands were full as it was. Despite this, I felt like no matter how difficult it would be to have three dogs, he would have been worth it. So I made a deal with the universe. I said if Soybean is meant to be part of my family, then I will take him home if his adoption doesn't work out.
It's a rare occasion for me to impatiently call my family to rave about an adoption not working out, but finding out Soybean wasn't leaving, after weeks of prepping for his departure, was worthy of celebration to me. When I got the news, I darted to his kennel to share it with him and snuck him out for a walk. I explained to him that his life was about to change. I told him he would be getting two new sisters and that he would have a cozy home to run around in, but that I was new to this, so he'd have to have patience with me. I told him how much I loved him and promised to do my best for him always. I didn't know it yet, but Soybean was the piece of my family that I didn't know was missing.
I won't make light of the challenges I faced with bringing home a blind puppy. Potty training was extremely confusing, commands were difficult, my dry wall was tested, as were many pairs of shoes, door frames, books, and clothing. I'll be honest, I cried many times after bringing Soybean home, and I even considered that we weren't a good fit and that I'd have to tell my co-workers I failed. Some days I felt like he was out to get me because he would jump up at me and chew on my hair, chase me around the house to bite my toes, and he'd pick up bowls full of water just to make a mess. Not to mention he'd frequently bark and whine, just as he did at the hospital. Somehow though, he always knew when to reassure me. There'd be these quiet moments where he'd lay his head on my shoulder, crawl in my lap, or give me an encouraging lick, and I knew that I could never actually give up on him.
After Soybean came home and completed my trio, I gained patience, a new perspective on problem-solving, and most importantly a new love for life. He has solidified my belief that happiness cannot be achieved through any external sources, but that it comes from within and radiates throughout. Soybean has no idea he's different from any other dog. He has learned to interact with them in his own way, he's learned to navigate his environment like a pro, and he can locate me from anywhere. Everything about him is outstanding and inspirational.
I want Soybean's story to encourage other people to adopt, but most importantly to adopt with an open mind. A pet is not a fashion statement or a toy, but a living, breathing, tail-wagging source of precious life. Sure, Soybean sounds wonderful because I'm telling you about him from experience, but if you met him at a shelter when he had wonky eyes and was screeching in his kennel, would you have given him a chance? Many would have walked right past him without ever finding out that he is the bravest dog you'll ever meet, or that he makes everyone he comes across smile, or that he is the happiest dog in the world. The three-legged pittie or deaf chihuahua you overlook could turn out to be your best friend, but you would never know if you pass them up based solely on their imperfections. I'm telling you about Soybean because the reality is that had he not been brought into my workplace, he would have been euthanized at any local shelter, and just like that, I would have never experienced the ray of sunshine that he is. My heart breaks thinking about all the other pets like Soybean who have been overlooked due to their appearances, medical conditions, or age. If we can let go of our inherent need to judge, open our minds, hearts, and homes, then we can give more pets like Soybean a chance to meet their best friend. That best friend might just be you.