Meet my newest companion, Rufus.
Rufus is a six-year-old purebred Basset Hound who weighs just a little over 60 pounds, and is about 3 feet long from the top of his head to the base of his tail. Rufus is also blind, having lost his sight to glaucoma a couple of years ago. I adopted him in September. I was looking for an adult dog to adopt, and specifically for a Basset. For some reason, the Basset personality seemed to be just what I needed: friendly, loyal, smart, and slow (but more on that later . . . .). Rufus was the first adoptable adult Basset I found in my area, and truth be told, I didn’t think twice about the fact that he was blind–I fell in love with his photo. If anything, I wanted him even more because I know there are lots of people who can’t or won’t adopt a dog with special needs. Aside from being blind, Rufus also has a need to be around people and in particular, around his human companion. His former owner–who was devastated to have to find him a new home–was forced to give him up when his job left Rufus alone for up to twelve hours. I work from home and Rufus is by my side almost every minute. I love it.
So, the “slow” . . . yes, he is slow. Let me put it this way, no one will ever get fit walking a Basset–or at least not this one! I could stroll down the street with coffee in a china cup in one hand and Rufus on a leash in the other and not spill one drop of my morning brew. At times he does work his way up to little jog, but usually I don’t have to adjust my speed too much. Of course, his impaired vision contributes a bit to his languid stroll–he has to literally smell and feel his way everywhere–but he gets along just fine, thank you.
When I brought him home for the first time I gave him a house tour, helping him navigate around furniture and down hallways. Within a day he was up and down the stairs with nary a wrong turn. When we go out somewhere new I make sure to guide him properly with both physical aids (walking closely so he can feel my leg) and verbal cues on the initial tour and help him get his bearings. One night we ate dinner at a friend’s home and within half an hour he lounging on the second floor landing very close to napping. He naps extremely well . . .
He gets along well with other animals, too; he just doesn’t like to be startled. (Well, neither do I . . . do you?) The funny thing is they don’t always get along with him. The introductory hind-end sniffing goes just fine, every time. It’s after that. Some dogs don’t understand why he won’t play with them; they don’t realize that he can’t see them. That part makes me sad sometimes. I feel like he’s missing out on a quintessential part of dog life, but I think perhaps I’m over-thinking the issue. In the true fashion of the nonplussed hound, Rufus is unfazed.
We may never play fetch with a tennis ball or a frisbee, but he can sniff out a good time anywhere. We go for long walks and his nose never stops working! And when he’s on a scent, there’s not stopping him. (Did I mention that he’s prone to stubbornness? . . . Well, he is!) He leads me . . . though I still guide him through new territory and make sure he can feel his way around without too many stumbles and bumps. I’ve never been a seeing-eye human, but it’s a fantastic title to hold. I’m grateful for the way it’s made me slow down and “enjoy the walk” from his point of view, rather than my usual one. It’s refreshing.
People fall in love with Rufus right away–I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t. When they learn that he is blind they often tell me how great it is that I adopted a “blind dog.” I really don’t see it that way, though. When I think of Rufus, I think of a quote from one of my favorite books, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart.” By that standard, I’d say Rufus is 20/20.
*To support efforts to place blind dogs in good homes. Visit the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance web site to donate or spread the word.
*To rescue your own Basset Hound visit the Basset Hound Rescue website.
Thank you from me and Rufus.