As I rolled down the tow path on my bicycle yesterday, I passed a couple with a Malinois walking the other way. I waved a greeting and said “nice Malinois,” and we rolled by each other.
As I came back to the car, the couple were just packing up.
Their dog was off-leash and quite lovely to see — a small and light female, happily prancing with joy about 20 feet away.
These were very experienced dog owners, and this was their fourth Malinois.
The husband went off to the restroom and I talked a bit to the wife about over-breeding while I loaded my dogs and bike. I said I thought the Malinois community had done as good a job as could be done to “unsell” this famously bitey breed from the inexperienced knuckle-headed thugs. She agreed, but noted a few exceptions, and then her husband came back and she went to the head.
“She’s blind you know,” said the husband.
I was confused.
Not the wife.
I stopped looking at the body of the dancing dog and focused on her head. There were no eyes — just shallow depressions where they had been.
Wow. I felt like an idiot. Clearly this dog was not the only blind animal in this parking lot!
The dog was operating on scent and sound alone. She was doing such a marvelous job at it — and was so clearly ecstatically happy — that I had not noticed.
The dog had had glaucoma — a disease for which there is no test — and both eyes had been removed.
My own experience with blind dogs is nearly zero. I have seen blind terriers in crates at the edges of shows, but I have always assumed they had limited lives.
I had a friend whose ancient and blind dachshund (“starting to look like bad taxidermy”) still worked up to the end, but that was a dirt dog, and underground it’s always dark and there are few paths forward.
And yet here was this Malinois dancing with joy.
Clearly, at least in this case, and in the hands of a very good trainer, a blind dog can soar.
Pay attention, and you can learn two or three new things every day.
Yesterday, I did.