I didn’t grow up with dogs. In fact, I used to dislike their unpredictable nature and energy, I used to view dogs as “needier cats that go outside.” So I devoted my attention to cats, fish, snakes, mice, basically any other animal.
So it came as a surprise to my friends and family in March of this year when I told them I was planning to adopt a dog.
This decision did not come out of nowhere; I got a dog for a lot of the same reasons many people got a dog during the pandemic, I wanted a companion and at the time, what I had instead was a cat that liked to be looked at and ignored, and a snake that shared those same sentiments.
When I got laid off from my job in June of 2020, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. It was depressing and seemingly futile applying for jobs and I hated being inside all day with nothing to do. One day I decided to start walking.
When I started out, I was proud when I did two miles, that was the most I could do before my feet hurt. I got better shoes. I hit three miles. I got better socks. 4 miles. I started going on walks twice a day. 5 miles. I got inserts. 6 miles. Became an audiobook addict. 7 miles.
I was hooked on walking. Nick and I started walking together in the evenings and listening to audiobooks, but it wasn’t consistent. I started wishing I could share these walks with someone or something other than myself. I bought a cat harness for Buddy, but when he flattened himself on the ground with pure terror in his eyes, I knew I had to give up that pipedream.
I started talking to Nick about getting a dog; he was hesitant because he also didn’t grow up with dogs. I began looking at dogs privately. I broach the subject with Nick again, he concedes!! I tell him I would like to adopt a special needs dog since we have the means to take care of it (at this point I am thinking heartworm positive or something “easy”). He agrees. We see the posting for a 9 year old deaf and blind australian sheperd mini and it’s only an hour away. We hop in the car and off we go to meet this little white poof!
When we first meet Lido he is laying on the grass with his legs spread out, he seems to be smiling. We walk him around and he rests in multiple shady spots and is low energy. We think we are giving him a nice retirement/hospice situation.
Oh did he have us fooled.
The first three days with Lido were an intense blur. He walked me ten miles every day for the first three days. I began feeling sick, I was worried I had Covid, turns out, I had a severe dog allergy. I start taking allergy meds.
Our first month with Lido (as with most dogs from the shelter) was incredibly difficult, his behavior was confusing, and we didn’t know how to deal with his disabilities. We could find material on deaf dogs and blind dogs but very little on blind AND deaf dogs. He barked at everything and everyone. He would bark, sometimes bite, if we left him alone or walked away from him. He refused to be crated. He would defecate when we left the house, when I showered, when we slept, seemingly whenever. He would bite if I came near his food or near him with his food. He would jump whenever he was touched because it would startle him. He would bite me when I put him in the car or tried to take him out of the car. He refused to defecate in our yard. The list goes on.
I was in over my head in so many ways. I had no idea his issues would be so severe at times and it was incredibly difficult navigating how to train him. How do you tell a partially blind and deaf dog “no,” ask it to go out, or reassure it?
It felt like I was living with an abusive partner. I never knew which side of Lido I was going to get and it started to put a strain on Nick and I’s relationship because we were both confused and miserable. People would excitedly ask us how things were going and as much as I had bonded with Lido, it was hard to joyfully discuss him with others. When people would tell us how much they loved Lido we would always half-joke that they could have him. He got kicked out of dog daycare and I cried on my way home with him in the back seat. I started to wonder if I should take him back to the shelter, the very thought of doing that made me cry harder. I have never believed in “returning” or “giving up” on animals, and it felt like the ultimate betrayal to take Lido back.
When we adopted Lido, we were told he just needed to be taken to behavioral classes to work out a few minor issues. These “minor issues” were leaving me bruised and frustrated and the behavioral classes willing to accept a dog with such intense special needs did not exist. I was told that I would need a specialist and that he would probably never do tricks or be able to go to a restaurant so I should set my expectations low. Out of the 12 places I contacted about helping Nick and I navigate this dog, only one person agreed to take us on. She was an angel named Keri.
Keri was able to figure Lido out like no one else. She worked with us to find a way to communicate with Lido. It was also through Keri that we discovered a very important and critical detail about Lido, he’s smelling impaired!! This discovery was like the one missing piece of the puzzle with Lido. Everything that confused and frightened us about Lido made sense. He would bite us sometimes because he didn’t know who we were, now we know to always let him smell first.
It’s been six months since we adopted Lido.
He still walks A LOT, he walks me 4-6 miles a day. He can do two tricks so far. His behavioral issues are almost completely gone. We eat at restaurants a lot and there isn’t a person or dog that he doesn’t want to meet.
He and I are traveling crosscountry right now and he is the best companion I could have ever dreamed of. He is always willing to go on an adventure, whether it be a rock scramble, climbing up a mountain, or kayaking in lake. He just needed someone to give him a chance to do those things and to be that dog. Keri once said that he is the bravest dog she has ever known, and I have to agree. His bravery has been inspirational to me in so many ways. He reminds me that the unknown isn’t always so scary and neither is trying new things. In fact, he inspired me to take this trip!
When I began walking last year, I didn’t realize I was working my way up to being able to be the owner of Lido. Training him and watching him grow has been one of the biggest highlights of my year. He continues to amaze me and as I lay here with his head on my lap, I cannot imagine my life without him.