When you look at someone, what do you see? What do you notice first? Facial features? Smile? Body? Clothes? Or is it what they say that catches your attention?
What about an animal? Do you notice their breed? Or how friendly they are? Maybe it’s the bark? Or size?
Have you ever really paid attention to what you regularly notice in another? If you have, you probably have a checklist of items you quickly look for, which allows you to ‘size up’ a person or animal to give you a ‘picture’ of who they are. But what if you were blind and couldn’t see what they looked like? How would you make your determinations?
Snoopy was a beautiful beagle/blue tick hound mix, who came to me from a shelter where I volunteered. She wasn’t blind when I met her. On the contrary, she had full eyesight and a tail that never stopped wagging. Her cheerful disposition and wagging tail earned her lots of points with volunteers, who would take special interest in trying to help her find a forever home. Even when she was crowded into a kennel with 4 other dogs, she maintained her composure and made the best of things. Looking back, I realize that she held space for others in her kennel to stay calm and focused on the positive. It was no coincidence that those dogs got adopted. It was puzzling, though, why Snoopy did not.
One day I walked by her kennel. The card on her kennel was marked in red, a clear sign that she was on the hit list. And that was the day Snoopy came to live with me. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
It turned out Snoopy had talents — a lot of them! She immediately made herself at home with very little adjustment and made friends quickly. Snoopy made it her job to be the official Welcome Wagon of our family. Like Mary Poppins in charge of her brood, she greeted each dog individually every morning and packed them off to play for the day.
Right after Snoopy came, so did Katie. Katie was found in the brush, her skin red and hot, scraped and bleeding. She was only 3 months old with a severe case of mange. Snoopy took a liking to Katie immediately and made sure she felt welcome. She took care of Katie, cleaning her like a mother would. Wherever Katie went, so did Snoopy. When Snoopy got on the sofa, she would look at Katie and toss her head back as if to say, “Come on up. It’s fun here!” Katie would crawl up after her and scoot as close to Snoopy as she could. What a big help Snoopy was for me; it was like having a live-in nanny! We were a natural team, and she came at a time I needed support.
A natural peacemaker, she helped ground and soothe any dogs in her presence, just like she had done at the shelter. She also watched over the dogs in her play group, making sure they didn’t get into trouble. She kept her eyes on it all.
So it was especially difficult when, at 6 years old, she began having trouble with her eyes. “It is glaucoma,” the specialist told me. “Breed-related. Nothing you can do about it except treat it,” he said. So we did. And her eyes worsened — one at a time. And then two eye surgeries within a year rendered her completely blind.
I remember being so sad for her, imagining what it must be like to not be able to see. How would she manage to get around, I worried? How would I show her what to do? What about the other dogs? Would she bump into them? Would she even know they were there? I spent a lot of worry hours on those thoughts.
But Snoopy didn’t. She came home from the vet, having gone through yet another surgery, newly blind, and proceeded to navigate her way to the sofa without bumping into anything! I watched in amazement at how smoothly she accepted her new circumstances. In fact, I started really paying attention to her in a way I had not before. Not grumpy nor sad in the least, Snoopy kept doing what she always had — wagging her tail even in the most difficult circumstances. It was clear she had something to show me, something I needed to see.
Over the next few years, Snoopy’s talents and gifts became even more evident, more pronounced. She navigated our property so well that when we went out for potty breaks, I would not have to leash her like the others. In fact, she actually did better off-leash, as she created her own path from the house to the yard and back to the front door all on her own. She knew what she was doing and was confident in her own senses.
One evening we all went outside. It was dusk, and Snoopy turned left instead of right, which was her habit. She had a well-worn path. I was busy with several dogs and didn’t notice her wandering off. As we made our way back into the house, I noticed it had gotten darker. I also noticed that Snoopy was missing. Frantically calling her name, I raced to the door to put the dogs up and began a search. I finally saw something moving toward the trees, and as I got closer, I saw it was, indeed, Snoopy. And she was carrying something! Snoopy met me at the driveway with a live possum in her mouth! She gently laid it down right in front of me! The poor thing was too scared to move. I was too scared to move. Snoopy padded off toward the house, her job done. I grabbed a nearby shovel and gently picked up the still possum, carrying him over the fence so he could make a clean get-away! Snoopy to the rescue.
Yet another time, Snoopy somehow managed to get loose on the inside of the barn, where she and the other dogs stayed during the day. She made her way into the loft (which meant she had to climb stairs) and fell into another stall containing a newcomer — a husky who didn’t like other animals. The husky’s name was Sasha. She was independent and sassy and strutted like a peacock, puffing up her husky fur like she was the queen. Her haughty attitude drove the others wild, and they would bark non-stop when she started her runway strut.
But Snoopy saw the good in her and wanted to tell her face to face. That day she fell, she must have landed on Sasha’s bed. When I came up to feed that afternoon, I found Sasha and Snoopy hanging out together — the best of friends. I gasped when I saw them both together, and I stared hard as if looking at a Highlights magazine “What’s Wrong with This Picture?” scene.
“Snoopy, what in the world . . . how did you . . . what happened?!” was all I could say.
I opened the stall door, and Snoopy calmly got up and walked out right into her regular stall as if nothing unusual had happened. Sasha seemed softer after that episode. And later, when Eddie, a collie mix, came into our lives, he was able to connect with Sasha and became her only other friend. Snoopy paved the way for Eddie; she was a do-gooder from the get go.
While I knew Snoopy had remarkable talents, I didn’t realize that blind dogs really do see, and she showed me in no uncertain terms.
It was late afternoon, and the sun was beginning to set. We had come in from a quick walk outside, and everything seemed fine. After a few minutes inside, something nudged me to look on the sofa for Snoopy. She was not there, nor was she in the house at all! Panic set in as I flew out the front door, calling her name as loudly as I could. Our family broke up in different directions on a search-and-find mission for Snoopy. Our voices rang loud and clear in the silence of the outdoors. I went toward the left side of our property and the farthest corner of our fence. Suddenly I saw a little movement. No noise or bark — just movement. I ran, and as I got closer, I saw Snoopy standing outside the fence near the road. She was close to the fence, facing the house. Standing. Waiting.
“Snoopy!” I yelled. “Is that you? What are you doing? How did you get out there? Young lady, you get right back onto our property exactly the way you got out!”
I talked to her in complete sentences like she was one of my kids!
I watched as she walked over to the corner of the fence, slipped through a hole big enough for two dogs and trotted past me down the gravel driveway toward the house — a mere 750 feet from the road. I huffed and puffed after her and found her patiently waiting at the front door for me to catch up. Later, when I sat with her, she looked at me with great compassion and gently shared the moral of the story: if a blind dog can get out a hole at the fence corner, so can one that can see. Checkmate.
Snoopy lived with us for 13 years and gifted us with her presence every day of her life. At 17 years old, she came in one day from a full day of barking and sunning herself. She climbed up on the sofa and went to sleep. When I checked her before going to bed, I noticed something different — her tail wasn’t wagging as I petted her. She always responded to touch, even when sleeping. Snoopy quietly slipped away that night, passing peacefully into spirit form. She had done her job and took flight with the same ease with which she had led her life.
You don’t need your eyes to truly see another — you just need your willingness to open all the avenues you have and lookinto rather than at.
There will never be another Snoopy, but I know I was privileged to have lived with an angel. She taught me how to see life as if through a kaleidoscope, watching for its changing patterns and scenes through all my senses. She reminded me every day that you don’t need your eyes to truly see another — you just need your willingness to open all the avenues you have and look into rather than at. And don’t we all long for just one person to truly see us? Snoopy lived a life of constant surrender, loving whatever life offered her. No matter what, she loved it all.
I think I’m going to follow her lead by practicing loving-kindness, making the best of things, having a good attitude every day, sharing myself with others, speaking up when I need to, having the courage to be my authentic self, and looking for the best in every situation.
Snoopy, thank you for showing me the ropes, even if I didn’t always see them immediately. Because of you, I can see clearly now.
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