I didn’t mention this here before but I work at the SSPCA on Fridays as a shelter staff. This generally means I do things like wash hundreds of cat and dog dishes, remove soiled newspaper from the cages, replace with fresh newspaper, feed the animals and learn how to give a pill to a cat (still can’t do it). I officially started in January this year, but I’ll talk about that in a different post. Eventually.
Today I noticed that one of my favourite dogs, Blindie (I didn’t name him but it pretty much describes his main lack of feature), was missing during feeding time. I asked one of the staff, who didn’t notice he was not there until that moment. We have between six to nine free-roaming dogs at any given time and some will go explore outside but most will return for meal time.
I asked another staff and was told that Blindie died on Wednesday. Died! I was crushed!
When I had a chance to speak to shelter manager Richard, he said that he thinks it might have been a snake bite.
Blindie joined the shelter collective around the rollover to 2012. The first we heard about him was Richard’s post here with a photo of the newcomer (included below) and a note that said:
A note to shelter visitors : Please do NOT approach this dog. He’s docile but because he’s blind, he will bite if touched suddenly or if you bump into / step on him. Used to be a rather tough (aka aggressive) dog but became docile after his castration and blindness. Got blinded from fighting with another dog.
I’ve never met a blind dog before so I was curious and eager to see him for myself.
As I expected, Blindie was a little jumpy in his new environment. He jumped and snapped at anything he walked into or any person or dog who brushed against him. He walked into pillars, walls, and a pair of boots someone left in the middle the floor. He often slipped into the small drain dividing the main animal area and the driveway.
He quickly learned to recognise when he is near the drain. He’d sniff the ground studiously (grass, damp drain smell?), find the edge of the drain with his forepaws, and take BIG steps over the little drain. Watching him overreach was kinda funny but it was also kinda smart. The walls and pillars will remain a problem for the next few weeks.
It took all day of saying his name and directing my voice in his direction before he finally let me touch him. He jumped a little, of course, because a big tough former gangster like him was probably not used to being touched.
Blindie quickly became one of the highlights of my Fridays. I watched as he explored the area relentlessly, nose to the ground, ears turning to pick up sounds. I was surprised when he even went out the gates of the shelter to explore outside. It was not easy. He once fell into the big drain and was unable to get out until a visitor alerted Richard. Mealtimes are tensed in our usually peaceful shelter because Blindie will snarl and fight with whoever got to the nearest plate before him.
The one thing that impressed me about Blindie is that he didn’t let his blindness get him down or stop him from learning about his new surroundings. He’d nap in the middle of the shelter driveway but knows to get out of the way when he hears a car. He’d go outside to the shophouses and hang out there. There was one time when Richard and I left the shelter in the van and saw Blindie lying on the grass by the outside road, just chilling.
“Blindie, go home!” Richard called out the window as we rolled by. Blindie probably just grinned and stayed where he was. His right eye was infected and bulged slightly out of its socket. When he opened his mouth to pant, he looked like he was grinning manically.
In one and a half months, he mastered the layout of the area – no more bumping into pillars and he even knew the actual size of the drain. He knew that nobody there would hurt him and accepted contact more readily (although he’d still jump a little, he didn’t snap). He can walk next to you and not into you. I stroked him and scratched him and played with his ears as often as I could.
Around mid February onwards, he uncharacteristically went to seek Richard out in his office.
There was no doubt that he was a happy dog then. He was more relaxed and even a little bouncy. He came in while I was there and happily made a pest of himself in the office after chasing down a pineapple tart on the floor. It was like all the hard days were over and he had his life figured out.
I imagined Blindie will some day be able to tell his buddies all he knows about mastering life. He even inspired a character in a book I’m working on.
But life is short for a dog, especially a shelter dog with a murky past and an uncertain future. And this is how Blindie have left us after a short two months.
Feeding time for the dogs earlier was peaceful and scuffle-free.
After everyone else have left, I found that a sick puppy had died in its cage. I took it out, showed it to Richard. Since he was busy with day-end things, it fell to me to take it to the crematorium.
I’ve never moved dead animals into the freezer before. Dead stiff and newspaper-wrapped puppy in one hand, I climbed up the wooden pallets that kept the top loading freezer above water level (it floods too often) and popped open the lid. It was empty. I put the puppy inside and noticed a second freezer. Curiosity drove me to open that too and look inside. It was also empty.
I didn’t know what I was looking for until I sat down to write this story.