Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walking Miss Daisy


About four years ago Miss Daisy wandered or was abandoned into our life. It was a typical Sunday. I was at the hospital making patient rounds when a call from my wife.
“I found two dogs in the circle,” she reported. “I’m texting you their picture.”
“OK,” I answered, “I’m still making rounds, but should be done home in an about an hour.”
“I think someone dropped them off in the neighborhood,” she concluded. “One is a Basset Hound.”
The picture arrived. There was a rather frazzled looking tan and white lady, fairly tall and thin. And there was her companion, a mostly black, fine looking Basset Hound. The phone rang again.
“I put the dogs in the driveway and gave them some food,” Laura reported. “Of course, no collars or tags.”
“Maybe they’re microchipped?” I wondered, full well knowing that the odds finding their true owners was around a thousand to one.
Needless to say, the owners remained a mystery and Freckles, a Weimariner mix, and Daisy, the Basset Hound were adopted into our family, joining our other four dogs.
Daisy, or Daisy Mae, as I call her, paying homage to Lil’ Abner, had glaucoma and was already blind in her left eye. Freckles had very early heartworms which were successfully eradicated with antibiotics.
Daisy Mae started on a regimen of eye drops, the blue bottle twice a day, the beige one three times and the pink and green ones once at night.
But, this article isn’t about the life story of Daisy Mae and Freckles. No, it’s about walking poor Daisy. I wonder if poor is the proper term? Daisy Mae has since gone on to lose the vision in the right eye which required surgical enucleation, that is, it was removed.
Now she is Daisy Mae, the blind Basset hound.
“Poor Daisy,” one might say.
But is she poor?
If you are familiar with the Basset Hound,
(see “Man’s Best Friend, The Noble Basset Hound
then you know that this breed of dog lives its life on its own terms. They are not mean or unruly, just independent and stubborn. Their keen sense of smell is second only to the Bloodhound among dogs, following their nose to the finest discarded garbage in the neighborhood. They instinctively find the most comfortable spot in the house to sleep, happily usurping your favorite overstuffed chair.
Should you feel the urge to relax in this chair they will give you a look of shock that you would even consider taking their spot. That is if you are able to wake them.
Now consider Miss Daisy Mae. All she has is her amazing nose.
The chore, or is it joy, of walking her often falls on me.
Call her name and she rises from her bed, sensing that it is either time for treats or a walk. She trots through the kitchen, deftly avoiding cabinets, garbage cans, chairs and other dogs, barking in her deep, loud Basset voice until she is hooked to the leash and heads to the door. Sometimes in her excitement she bumps into a couch or table leg, but she manages, always leading me to the door. Somehow her nose can smell the step off the front stoop as she jumps down and is on her way.
First order of business is emptying her bladder. With nose millimeters from the ground and ears flapping she finds the perfect spot, squats and nature’s call is answered. Now she is free to follow her nose. Literally.
And what a nose. Sniffing subtle aromas may be almost as good as, or even better, than sights. Daisy Mae walks along, gingerly sniffing, always along the edge of the sidewalk close to the grass. Her nose can “see” where the sidewalk ends as she only veers off to pursue a new and, I assume, wonderful, interesting, enticing scent. Once an odor is discovered she will stop and sniff and snuffle until she’s had her fill of whatever she has unearthed. Then, she will raise her head, give a snort, cleansing her nostrils of the scent and go on her way.
Methodical, slow and steady, and relentless she goes her way, oblivious to me, her leash and any other impediments. And, if her chosen path varies from mine we are left with a classic battle of wills. Me, pulling the leash, against Daisy’s 65 low slung, dense pounds.
“There’s an interesting scent this way,” her face says. “I’m not budging until I investigate.
Most of the time she wins.
Then there are those moments of joy, for Daisy, at least. She will come across a trail that excites her. A howl escapes from her throat, followed by three loud barks and another howl. She forgets her blindness, she forgets me, she forgets everything but this unseen, odiferous trail. Off she goes at a fast trot, nose to the ground, determined and resolute as she tracks down a particularly pungent, perhaps dangerous and nefarious quarry. The chase lasts for thirty or even sixty seconds until she stops and raises her head pretending to look into the distance before she turns back to me and we begin the trek home.
But, in that moment she could “see.”