Despite my ever-more-frequent pleas to the governor, state legislators and president of the American Canine Optometric College, dog groomers are not considered essential and must remain at home where they are unable to restore my sheepdog, Ben’s, eyesight.
Ben’s vision failed as Hemingway might describe: Slowly, then all at once. I blame the government, and my electric clippers that stopped working and are out of warranty.
I faintly remember Ben’s close-cropped black and white coat, fluffy ears and puffy tail. His clear dark eyes stared at the treat in my hand, his embarrassment at looking like a giant Maltese momentarily forgotten. I resist anthropomorphizing animals, but I could almost imagine Ben seeing the future and it tasting like peanut butter.
Days passed and with them Ben’s hair grew. Oh how we laughed at the week we called “his teenage years,” when an emergent forelock covered his right eye. I’d love to believe that Ben was laughing along with us as he bounced around the house, just like he had always done.
I doubt that our aging mutt, Rox, saw the humor in Ben’s playful and increasingly inerrant thrusts at dog-shaped objects he encountered. As Ben’s hair grew longer and longer and longer still, his ability to distinguish between humans, other household pets and pieces of furniture become less acute.
I became worried when I observed him sitting in front of a coat tree for twelve hours, apparently believing it to be a visitor who had something tasty to share.
What would Darwin say about the genetic composition of a canine who is unable to naturally shed excess supraocular hair? As an alternative, one could reasonably expect sheepdogs to develop the capacity for sonar detection. Their lack is a strike against the very idea of evolution.
It has also necessitated a fiendishly clever strategy we have implemented to help Ben overcome almost total blindness. We either 1) use our fingers to sweep his hair aside before commanding “eat!” or “play!” or some other imperative, or 2) we kick back on the sofa and watch him chase what he believes to be Rox around the living room, as she sits comfortably in our laps.
We pray our accommodation is temporary, and cling to the hope that Ben will one day return to the world of the sighted. Please help us and call the governor.