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About A Dog

AbbyH My little dog Abby lost her right eye yesterday.

“Lost” is a funny term for it—implying that she misplaced it somewhere and can’t for the life of her remember where, like you might car keys. Maybe, in time, “lost” will be enough to define the visceral brutality of what happened. But not quite yet.

Then again, I’m not entirely sure what happened, exactly. I do know this much, in the way that your mind tills over and over the details leading up to a terrible thing, as if to search for clues that things were about to be altered forever: My daughter Caroline and I were in the backyard. I was combing the surface of a new garden with a steel rake. Abby and her canine sister, Maisy, were with us, too, roaming—as they often do—amid a thick bed of flowers and ferns some 50 feet away. Abby stands only about a foot tall from her shoulder to her paws: When she’s in the garden it swallows her whole. Rabbits and chipmunks and voles and other small creatures take refuge in that garden, and Abby and Maisy track their punky smells, noses to the ground.

Abby is a rescue dog who came to live with us just shy of her first birthday: First as a foster, and then later as a permanent part of the family. She is the kind of dog you like even when you don’t like dogs: She is gentle and meek around people, and she melts the disinterested shell right off of strangers, who can’t help but bend down to pet her as she sidles up to them; “Aww, aren’t you a good girl?” they’ll say. “Yes,” I always respond. “She’s something special.”

She seems to know, intuitively, which people are most in need of a dose of her, and those are the ones that she parks herself in front of, gently pawing the air before them, as if she’s waving a small peace flag, her soulful human eyes seeking theirs.

Abby You can see how, if you do like dogs, a dog like Abby would grow like a wild vine around your heart, wrapping herself around your organs until after a while your hearts together beat in wordless understanding. I’ve had sweet dogs before. But what makes Abby uniquely rooted in my heart is that soulful intellect cross-wired with a spunky streak. It’s a lively bit of pluck that Vahe calls charajiji, using the Armenian to describe a kind of naughty impishness. That’s what drives her sense of fun and adventure that—the first time I set eyes on her—had her strolling the back of the sofa like a cat, as if she owned the place. (She didn’t.) And today, almost six years later, still sends her swooping and diving at tennis balls around the dining room table, and running at top speed to scatter flocks of gulls on the beach. It’s what has her stalking chipmunks now in the garden.

From the new garden nearby, I see only the tops of the flowers swaying in huffy complaint as Abby and Maisy tramp through. It went on for the better part of the humid June afternoon: Maisy and Abby patrolled. I raked. At one point I watched the dogs for a minute, leaning on my rake, and mused to Caroline: “It’s funny, isn’t it, the way that the girls in our family are the motivated ones?” Our two male dogs, Chile and Simon, were splayed on the cool tile indoors; Caroline’s brother, Evan, was inside, too, himself splayed on the sofa.

Suddenly I heard a quick, decisive growl. Maisy. It’s the sound she makes when she’s been startled or agitated by something. I guessed Maisy had cornered a terrified little critter, and I pictured a frantic little paw swiping at Maisy’s big black snout nosing beyond the lip of a burrow.

“Maisy!” I yelled. “Abby! Come!” Maisy came trotting out of the thicket right away, but Abby is not as easily deterred from prey. Charajiji. I headed toward the garden, calling her name again, a little impatiently. “God I hope it’s not a bunny…” I said to Caroline. Suddenly Abby popped out of the brush.

There’s that moment when you look at something so unexpected, so surprising, so shocking, that your brain can’t quite compute what it is, exactly, you are looking at. With Abby trotting toward me, I looked only long enough to work out what I was actually looking at: which was her right eye hanging out of its socket, like some Halloween zombie display at a party goods store, bobbing with every step she took.

I guess I should feel lucky to say that it was the singularly most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen, but yesterday it didn’t feel that way. Instead, I felt not just revolted but inexplicably terrified, and much as I’m not proud of it now, I screamed and turned away from poor Abby and ran full-tilt into the house, Caroline at my heels, bolting the door behind us, blinking in the cool air and hoping the gruesome visage of our beloved little dog would somehow adjust itself back to its proper order.

Why, exactly? What was so scary? Did I think it wasn’t really her? That instead she’d been twisted into something bizarre and dangerous? Did I think her freakishly exposed eyeball was going to sprout legs and chase me down? I have no explanation for my response: Animals react to threats with a primal discharge of the nervous system, priming the animal to fight or for flight. Clearly, my primal neurons instructed me to flee.

But poor sweet Abby! If she was in pain, she didn’t seem it. She trotted after us, waiting to be let in first by one door and then the other, and seemingly unaware of the chaos, the screaming. It was the boy on the couch who sprang into action, swaddling Abby in a beach towel and depositing her in my arms, where I held her close and cooed to her as the boy sped—with no license and no shoes, I realized later—to the emergency vet clinic a few miles away. By then, in me, another primal urge had taken over: To fix, to care for, to squeeze every drop of essence from my own body and pour it into hers, willing it into her as she sat panting on my lap, the towel around her head. The boy stood with me at the clinic, his size 10 feet shoved into a pair of his sister’s silver flip-flops he had foraged from the back seat of the car.

They couldn’t save the eye. It turns out she was already blind as she emerged from the garden, even as she was trotting after us. I don’t know exactly what the stringy bits are called that attach an eyeball to its socket, but whatever they are, hers included an optic nerve that was severed in the accident.

There was a small puncture wound above where her eye was; the vet presumes that a larger animal bit her in the face, and happened to catch her just so, causing her eye to shoot out like a pinball from its coil spring. It might have been Maisy, who perhaps snapped to warn her away from a critter hole she wanted for herself; it might have been another larger animal lurking in the brush.

We picked Abby up early this morning from the clinic. I know she’ll recover quickly and adapt; I’ve seen plenty of one-eyed dogs. Still, I’m sick over it: For her pain and trauma, for the loss of her pretty little face, and the way she turned her one remaining eye on me this morning and moaned, searching for something I didn’t have.

Total Annarchy

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66 Responses to About A Dog

  1. WBMichele says:

    Wow! So sorry to read this about Abby. I tried to imagine myself, with my dog, in your position, and my brain couldn't comprehend what it was I was trying to conjure. Abby is lucky to have you in her life, and I'm willing to bet she'll take the world on just like before – dogs are so resilient.

    P.S. – She's also lucky that you were there when it happened!

  2. Smallpaws4 says:

    So heartbreaking Ann and scary to have had this happen. I'm sure you all want to wake up and have had this be an odd and awful dream.

  3. Peg M says:

    Oh, Ann, so sorry, that such a sad thing happened, on what should have been a happy weekend. I found myself remembering my best friend's dog, from my growing up years–and the wonderful summer cookout, we were all enjoying…the horse-play in the pool, the smell of the barbecue, the laughter… and then the sound of screeching breaks, and the dog's cries. Our senses reel, when something so terrible & cruel happens, nestled amidst the sunshine and ordinariness of our routines. I'd say that you are probably a bit still in shock. Thank goodness, she will adjust & mend, and that there will be much better times with her again.

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  5. Sharon Edwards says:

    My thoughts are with you and Abby… so sorry to hear about this accident… dogs do adapt — Asia lost an eye (to glaucoma – different than what happened to Abby). I had alot of feelings about it too… She lived another 3 years. These are life's little lessons… sometimes very hard and scary.

  6. Courtney Bosch says:

    Poor little Abby! I was mesmerized by this post. You're both in my thoughts Ann. It will get better!

  7. David says:

    I'm so sorry to hear about little Abby. But she'll be ok, because she has you to love her. She's a lucky pup.

  8. Chris Bellezza says:

    Ann, I just don't know what to say, and I'm sorry isn't enough. What a horrible thing to happen, for all of you. I can say that Abby will look so much better in a few weeks, when her hair grows back, and she's back to her happy, care-free self.

  9. DJ Waldow says:

    Ann. Ann. Ann. You need to stop writing these sad stories! You are starting to get a reputation. In all seriousness, I'm terribly sorry to hear about little Abby. Your writing – as always – makes me feel like I already know her. What a sweet little dog (that coming from a guy who doesn't normally like “drop-kick” dogs). It sounds like she'll recover and be just (relatively) fine. Please give her a pat on the head and/or rub on the tummy for me – whichever she prefers…

    DJ Waldow
    @djwaldow

  10. Jenniferallen7 says:

    Ann, this must have been a horrifying experience. Thank goodness you have a few almost adults in the home to “deal” on a rotating basis. I have found that I just never know when my adult is going to rear it's head. When it all comes down to it, you raised them! I am sad for Abby but know that she probably thought about her missing eye for oh, one minute, and then moved on and decided to adapt. She is even more fortunate to have you now.

    Jen

  11. thespottedduck says:

    Ann! I'm so so sorry to hear about Abby. I know just the kind of animal you're talking about. My cat and I have the same special bond and he has a similar personality, sweet and cuddly when you need him to be, at other times a troublemaker that makes you laugh. The thought of any harm ever coming to him fills me with dread.

    But unlike us, animals are much better at dealing with pain and trauma. They are much more adaptable. Abby will heal and move on and adjust to her new state of being perhaps even before you do. Just give her all the love you can possibly muster and be thankful that she's still here.

    Sending healing thoughts to all of you!

  12. annhandley says:

    Thanks, Shelley. I'm so glad you have an animal like Abby in your life. They are one in a million. Thanks for the good wishes.

  13. annhandley says:

    I know, right? Sad somehow comes easier to me, but I know what you mean. ; )

  14. annhandley says:

    I thought of Asia, Sharon. And I know she went on to recover, which gives me hope for little Abby.

  15. annhandley says:

    Oh lord, Peg. That is pretty much my worst nightmare right there, especially as I love on a sometimes-busy road. But yeah, you captured it nicely: Suddenly in the sunshine and ordinariness…. you get it right between the eyes.

  16. zil says:

    What a traumatic experience!! I know Abby will recover but I so wish she and all of you didn't have to…. sending our love to all of you!

  17. Dannacall says:

    So sorry Ann. I hope she's not having any pain. I'm happy she has someone who loves her as much as you do. Love goes a long way toward healing and I'm sure her love for you will help you as well.

  18. Ann M Heisler says:

    poor lil' Abby! Glad you were there when it happened! Speedy recovery to all of you.

  19. Habeshian says:

    What a horrible thing; I'm so sorry.

  20. Heartbreaking story (but so well written I couldn't stop reading). So sorry for this loss.

    Still, I'm sure there's a lesson on recovery and adaptation in there. If only it were as easy for us as for dogs, right? If we just didn't bring all our emotions and baggage and history into everything, like they don't, and just lived moment to moment maybe it would be. I'm sure Abby feels physical pain but equally sure she will move past it and continue being the special companion and family members she clearly is.

    You certainly made me appreciate my little Scruffy (our toy poodle) more – already 9 years old, only 5 pounds, but going strong. I always fear for his fragility among Florida critters many times his size.

    Acceptance will come, but until then I wish you all the comfort you need and then some.

  21. Heidi says:

    Hi Ann, here's to Abby's — and your family's — recovery. Try to focus on the positives…that you all were there to help her, that the surgery was successful, that she's recovering in your loving care. She WILL adapt and do “the best with whats she gots” — as dogs will do. And try not to be too hard on yourself for having an understandably primal reaction (I'm sure I would have fainted — and in fact I did when a past dog of ours — about Abby's size — was attacked by a MUCH bigger dog that got off-leash and charged us. In that moment of terror I froze like a deer in the headlights — unable to do anything but wait for the bigger dog to reach us and attack my poor baby; I actually blacked out, and “came to” on the ground amid flying fur. The other dog's owner said I was actually on top of her dog but I was not conscious or I do not remember this.) We can't help our instinctive, primitive reactions…it's what we do when we pull our internal stuff together that's important. Just like you and your family did. You will move on from this, and Abby will have some great stories to tell her canine friends. “You shoulda seen the other guy.” :-) Best wishes, Heidi (fellow dog mom)

  22. jimstorer says:

    Ann – I'm sorry to hear about Abby and hope (expect) she'll soon be up to her old tricks. As a boy (man) who's worn someone else's too small shoes in a crisis, I feel for your son too. Thanks for sharing this story, and to DJ for tweeting about it… you always capture the essence of life in a way few others do.

    Jim | @jimstorer

  23. Chris N. says:

    Ann – As a certified (certifiable?) dog lover, I was gutted by Abby's story. As you well know, the four-leggeds are remarkably adaptable, so I have great belief that she'll be OK in a little bit. Until then, yes, much tummy rubbing, chin-chucking, and praise are in order. For Abby, too.

    Take good care of yourselves.

    Chris
    @cnahil

  24. Shelley Ryan says:

    Oh, Ann! I've never seen big brown soulful eyes as wonderful as Abby's.

    Your ability to write this out — eloquently as always — is a cathartic gift, I think. I feel terrible for you and for Abby, but I'm so glad you're willing to share this here. Give her a hug from me and Kinsey.

  25. Melissa says:

    This is such a heartbreaking story and hits very close to home. I have two cavaliers (a 2- year-old tri-color, and a one-year-old ruby) and we were just doing yard work with them last weekend. Our backyard is completely fenced in but I am sure a pesky rodent could find his way in some how.

    I hope Abby heals quickly and safely. She is a beautiful Cavalier!

  26. bethharte says:

    Ann,

    I am SO sorry to hear about Abby and her unforunate accident. But I do know this…your home is full of love and she knows that. If only she could understand how much love there is in an 18-year old boy wearing his sister's flip flops in public without a second thought!

    Having a deaf dog I can tell you their other senses become that much stronger when another sense is missing. I am sure Abby's sight and other senses will adjust and her charajiji will be EVEN stronger….lucky you! ;-)

    Give her a gentle squeeze, some belly scratching and a giant lick from me and Grainne (well, the lick is NOT from me, obviously!).

  27. annhandley says:

    Thanks, Beth. That's a wonderful sentiment, and I really appreciate it. (And really, your comment about the boy wearing little girl flip-flops just reminded me anew.) Thanks so much.

  28. annhandley says:

    Thanks, Melissa. If it makes you feel any better, the vet thinks the animals who bit her would have to be of a fair size: More like a raccoon than a bunny, for example.

    But I understand: I can't say I'll be relaxed with her in the yard to quite the same degree again.

  29. annhandley says:

    Karen: Thank you. Once we are all past this, I just might think about your comment more. It's a lovely sentiment. And you're right: She won't miss the eye nearly as much as I will.

  30. annhandley says:

    Done. Thanks, Shelley.

  31. annhandley says:

    Thank you, Chris. ; ) Belly duly scratched. I like you even more now that I know you are certifiable, too.

  32. annhandley says:

    Thanks, Jim. That is high praise, and I really appreciate it. Writing this post was pure therapy for me; otherwise I was a little insane yesterday.

  33. Livepath says:

    Annie,

    So sorry for dear Abby. This was one of the most excruciating stories I ever enjoyed reading… (flipflops… and your description of sweet Abby who wraps around your heart like a wild vine)….

    I'm sure she's a lot like her mommy with the charajiji …

    Maggie and I send her our love and sympathy… and glad she doesn't appear to be in an incredible amount of pain.

    XO,
    Leigh

  34. BL says:

    Wow ann, what a horror! I can't even imagine how i'd handle something like that happening to BennyBix. They do wrap around our hearts like vines, that's for sure, but only someone with your gift for words could say it that way!
    love to you and Abby

  35. My 1st thought were oh poor Abby. My 2nd thoughts were .. Ann does it again. Pet owner, or not, through her words we experience and understand the joys and pain a family pet brings. Max sends Abby woofs!

  36. seolsearchkaty says:

    My sister has the sweetest dog, Sophie, also a King Charles. Sophie was actually born with one eye. Apparently it is a common genetic defect. Anyway, she was a Bargain Bin puppy and is now the light of my sister's life. She is absolutely fine with just one eye. Being a cavalier, the other eye is so big and beautiful, it makes up for the other one.

    Amy was writing a blog – or should I say, Sophie was. I am trying trying to encourage her to write some more. Perhaps Abby and Sophie can commiserate.

    Anyway, my dog Matilda, and Sophie, send their puppy love to Abby. We hope you are all ok.

  37. seolsearchkaty says:

    woops. Forgot Sophie's blog: http://cavalierdays.blogspot.com

  38. Jo says:

    I feel your pain, and wish both you and your dog well. My own dog lost an eye to an ulcer, and I was racked with grief and guilt for not having grasped the seriousness of her condition, which a vet had earlier misdiagnosed as Dry Eye . Contrary to popular opinion, she never quite regained her old verve and passed away the next year. I still mourn her loss. But something about Abby's photo makes me believe she'll spring back. All the best!

  39. Katybeth says:

    Oh Ann! How terrifying!

    You have everything Abby needs. Everything she will ever need! In time..as the trauma melts…her little face will be just as beautiful as it ever was to the only people it will ever matter to. It sucks right now, tho!

    If Abby needs a deer antler to help her through the healing process…and one for her buddies of-course….just let me know!

    OX,
    Katybeth

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  41. maxkalehoff says:

    Recover quickly, Abby!

  42. Carol Burns says:

    I've read so many of your blog posts and loved each one. I cannot believe how this one transported me as if I was there with you racing to the vet and living each moment. Such a gift you have. You and Abby are amazing.

  43. Mindy says:

    Ooooh – the image is painful!!! But I'm glad you started out with the bottom line of bad news. It was hard enough to read about poor Abby! I loved your loving description of Abby and appreciated your honest reaction to the horrors of her injury… I was right there with you, Ann! Sounds like she was in shock initially and didn't register what had happened. But we all – including dogs, apparently – seem to regress when we're injured or sick. Your love will sustain her as she gets back into her life. I remember when Charlie (my beloved scottish terrier) was struck by a car. The driver who hit him rang our doorbell and with a heavy heart, and told us he had killed our dog. When we ran out to the street to see him, Charlie was still alive, covered in blood, body heaving and breathing short gulps. We rushed him to the vets and he survived! Oh joy! He had sustained some broken ribs and other minor injuries, but went on to live many more goofy, happy years. May Abby and her three dog compatriots and your two kids welcome Abby back into the fold, a one-eyed dog with a disability…

  44. annhandley says:

    Aww.. thanks, Carol. It's so nice to hear from you. And I appreciate your good thoughts. Hope all is well with you?

  45. annhandley says:

    Exactly. It was like she didn't get it. Completely unaware. *SO GLAD* to hear about your Charlie, though! Oh joy — Oh WOW!

  46. annhandley says:

    I hope so, Jo. That's what we are working toward, at least. ; ) Thanks for stopping by.

  47. annhandley says:

    Wow – Sophie is adorable! Abby's brother, Chile, is also a ruby. Sophie looks like a sweetheart, and please tell Sophie/Amy we'd love to hear more!

  48. annhandley says:

    Backatcha Max. Thanks, Toby. Appreciate it.

  49. annhandley says:

    Thank you, BL. Love back to you and Benny. I sort of knew you'd understand…. ; )

  50. KarenSwim says:

    Oh Ann, as a dog lover this really got me in the gut. I am so sorry about Abby's eye and wish her a speedy recovery. I am sorry for you too because I know how much it hurts you too. Give Abby a big hug from me.

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  52. Ann, this post was like a horrific car wreck you can't quite turn away from…you know the outcome is gruesome, but you can't manage to look away. As an ardent dog lover, your prose captures every iota of drama in breathtaking (almost surreal) candor…it's as if we were transported into the moment that was (yes) blindingly authentic and true. Snuggle up to sweet Abby, I'm gonna go hug my shelter mutts too…Hang tough.

  53. annhandley says:

    Thank you, Karen. Duly hugged!!

  54. annhandley says:

    Thanks, Amy. Nice to know you are another dog lover. Abby has definitely been hanging tough…. she's so much better this Monday than last. On the road to recovery, and all that. Hug your shelter mutts from me, too.

  55. Peter & Merrie says:

    Dear Ann:
    So sorry to hear about your sweet Abby. We're thinking of you all, and send wishes for a healthy, strong recovery. She is such a dear little gal.
    Peter & Merrie

  56. annhandley says:

    Hi Peter and Merrie — She is such a sweetheart… which makes this extra hard. She's doing a lot better this week, thankfully. Stitches out Friday!

    How's our pal doing?

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  58. Fitzmelrose says:

    Oh Ann, how awful (yet brilliantly written). How is she doing? Does the boy have a learners permit? Ours does not.

  59. annhandley says:

    Hi Julie — She's doing great… much better, and she seems to be adapting well.

    The boy has been driving for more than a year. This was one time it REALLY came in handy!

  60. Christine says:

    We just had a very similar experience with our little one year old Shorkie…his name is Zac. This happened on Sunday and we were able to bring him home Monday morning. He has to wear a cone for 10 days but seems to be adjusting . Sorry to hear about your Abby….sorry too for our little Zac but know that they will both live good lives with all the love they receive from us.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry for Zac, too, Christine. But just so you know… Abby is totally back to her old spunky self! And really more adorable and appealing than ever…

  61. sammiSampulcino says:

    how old is she

  62. Lisa Ryan says:

    Ann, my son is 22, and his dog, whom we all love so much, was hit by a car tonight.  My son was visiting his father in another state when it happened. His dog, a terrier-beagle mix named Forty, has lost his left eye.  We are devastated.  I am so glad I came across your blog when I googled “dog adapt loss of eye,” and I’m thrilled to hear your little Abby has indeed adapted. I worry more about my son, who witnessed the whole thing.  Thank you for your eloquent post, and I hope Abby continues to do well.

  63. Anni Hine Moana says:

    Thank you for sharing you stories. Tonight these have helped me a great deal as today my beautiful Lhasa Apso, Teddy, has lost one eye under truly horrible circumstances.He is in surgery tonight and the eye, now blind will be reinserted which the Vet thought was better though it may have to be removed later. It is heartening to hear that other dogs have recovered and adapted, I guess that at the moment I am feeling shocked, still, and a bit grief stricken as I love this dear little being with all of my heart.I am so grateful that he is alive and will be okay….but just terribly sad for his pain and loss.
    Anni

  64. Tyler says:

    The same thing just happened to my baby girl, Daisy. She is 5 and basically
    grew up with our older dog whom is 6 and randomly attacked daisy Sunday night causing Daisy’s eye to come out. The saddest part is we have to put our oldest dog to sleep due to a brain tumor (which explains the random aggressive behavior that we have been noticing). So not only did my sweet heart lose an eye but she’s losing one of her sisters:( Do you have any tips on how to help her cope or will she just naturally adjust?

    • Ann Handley says:

      Hi Tyler — First, I’m sorry about Daisy.

      Abby was about the same age when this happened to her, and she’s adjusted very well. She doesn’t know she’s one-eyed, in other words, and it doesn’t slow her down at all! The only difference is that I need to walk her on the opposite side of me now, otherwise she tends to get tangled in my legs… (she can’t see where I am in relation to her, obviously).

      Let me know how Daisy does. She sounds like a much-loved dog, and that’s really the important piece of any recovery.

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