“I am chained to the earth to pay for the freedom of my eyes. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943
I found Pickles curled up in the empty alcove pouting, where the Christmas tree used to be. She wouldn’t even look at me, turning away shifting her head from one paw to the other. With my heart in my throat, I slid down the wall beside her and pulled her chin up on my outstretched legs. She muzzled my hand in apology, confused by her own behavior.
For Pickles, the Christmas tree’s beacon of bright colorful lights has disappeared, gone were those days of curling beneath branches mesmerized by the dazzling luminosity. Charcoal black eyes full of questions search my face for answers. She senses love, momentarily forgetting tree lights and the luxury they afforded her darkening world as I hug her close.
“We make a pair – a deaf woman and her blind dog. You’re so much more than a working dog, always have been.” I whisper reassuring. “We’ll get through this, together.” She perks up at the mention of work. She lives to work and it serves twofold as the reason for her distress lately. Little does she comprehend I could never repay all she’s done already. Gentle sweet Pickles hid the signs well. Yet, the signs were there weren’t they sweet friend - the slow darkening of your eyes with a hazy sheen dimming their brown luminosity, along with the deteriorating night vision.
Pickles told me without words she needed help the day she stood at the top of the stairs with her front paws on the top stair and her hind legs perched on the floor above waiting. Her confusion gave it away, as she cocked her head to listen, waiting for me to go first – to lead, instead of bounding down the stairs ahead of me like the puppy she was at heart. I knew something had changed as I swiped at tears. I knew things would never be the same again when I tapped the step I stood on, and watched her listen, tuning into each footfall to locate a stair, teaching herself how to handle stairs once again. I learned a heartrending beautiful lesson in humility that day from her.
As I sit beside her, I’m reminded of the first time she taught me to hear without my ears. The Spring day she pointed out a woodpecker in a tree, her eyes guiding mine to where the bird tapped away in a staccato like a pile driver and the utter delight she had shown - chest puffed up, prancing on her front paws when I smiled in wonder and hugged her close. In the following years, I would continue to hear through her, seeing life not as a deaf woman but whole, unhindered through her eyes - eyes, which slowly darken and blur with each passing day. We two complete each other. This animal taught me more thoroughly about life and resilience than any human being could ever have.
Time is a thief, stealing irreplaceable things from our lives. Yet, Pickles remains a testament to the things time can’t touch: hope, courage, love, and perseverance. Despite loss and occasionally wanting to give up, we still go on, we still learn from one another, and hold each other up in an indelicate balance of emotional turbulence to the light of day.
Drawing a deep breath, I gently push Pickles off my lap and go get her leash. I’ll let her nose sniff out where we go from here. This survivor of Katrina, heartworms, and me, has more courage than anyone I know - she’ll be fine, we both will, and someday our story might even make a remarkable book. After all, life is filled with colorful characters and plots overflowing to the brim with life experiences and endurance. This writer lives her story word for word each day with an amazing sidekick…