It wasn’t the darkness that frightened her — Isis was used to the dark.
It was the unfamiliar sounds and smells that caused her to tremble. Her heart was pounding like one of the drums she could hear in the background.
Isis turned to seek a safe place, but she bumped into something, so she headed in a different direction, hoping to find safety there. Her nose was sore, bleeding slightly.
“What’s that damn dog doing in here?” somebody said.
Sadly for Isis, it was December, and the mall was crowded, leaving no safe place for a scared blind dog to hide.
I happened to be visiting the Elmore SPCA in Peru that winter day several years ago when two young people brought in the frightened, snow-white husky-mix they had found aimlessly wandering around a mall. No collar, no tags — clearly intentionally abandoned.
It was the holiday season, and the shelter was filled. So I volunteered to board Isis over the holidays until they could find a good home for her.
The good home turned out to be mine, and Isis has been with me ever since.
It feels like she has always been here. There was something mystical about those large, unseeing blue eyes of hers, so I named her after the mythological patroness of nature and magic. In legend, Isis was friend to slaves, sinners and the downtrodden; in real time, Isis became friend to me and a few years later was joined by Sammi, my 100-pound lap dog.
Being around a blind dog was a new experience for me, but there was little different I had to do for her — mainly remember to put things back in their original position when I moved them.
Isis quickly learned how to make her way around the house — two steps in this direction, a left turn then a right through the kitchen door, three steps and turn left to the water bowl.
Similarly, she learned how to find the door that leads outside and how to make her way to my bedroom, where nightly she sleeps on the floor close by my bed.
Isis was adopted because I liked her, not because she is blind. There is no charity involved. Isis is expected to come when called, sit, and bark (or howl, like her ancient ancestors) when she needs to go out.
She loves to get her head scratched and feels most comfortable sitting quietly near me.
Her blindness and other birth defects occasionally cause her problems. For example, she can’t see Sammi crouching in his let’s-play-some-games posture when he is in the mood so she misses out on some fun.
On the other hand, Sammi can’t bark, so the two of them have learned to work in tandem. When Sammi hears a car pull into the driveway, he runs to the window and jumps up and down, while Isis does the barking and howling for him.
As the years passed, I learned to admire her courage. It was particularly apparent during the recent cold spell, when the seven steps from the rear deck to the dog yard were covered with thick, slippery ice.
At first, Isis had a hard time trying to get up the steps. Her paws kept slipping, and for a few minutes I wondered how I was going to get her back in the warm house because I probably couldn’t stand on the ice, either.
Fortunately, Isis saved me the trouble. She struggled her way up the ice, and pretty soon her pink nose appeared on the top step. She ran happily into the house, stopped, turned around and waited for her customary dog biscuit reward.
The three of us live together in harmony in a 150-year-old farmhouse on a country road in Peru.
Blind dogs, like other dogs, need forever homes. But a word of caution to anyone who is considering adopting one: make sure they are not let out of the house unattended. Since they can’t see, they can’t find their way back without help.
When I call Isis to return from her fenced-in yard, sometimes she can’t place where my voice is coming from, and she runs about until she figures it out.
Other than that — just enjoy them.
Ken Wibecan is a retired journalist. Once an op-ed and jazz columnist, later an editor of Modern Maturity magazine, these days he and his two dogs enjoy the country life in Peru. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.