By Randy Pierce
In the mountains of truth, you never climb in vain. Either you already reach a higher point today, or you exercise your strength in order to be able to climb higher tomorrow.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
October 2013 brought tremendous challenge to the Mighty Quinn and his family. When strange hesitance to use his mouth in play became more clearly something awry, we brought him to the vet. Investigating this problem they discovered a spindle cell cancerous tumor on his left front leg and he had surgery the next day.
All the while, healing evaluations of the jaw difficulty continued to worsen and be explored. The constant pain and an eventual inability to eat or drink quickly led to Quinn being brought to the best possible care and treatment possible: Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. Here their top notch vets and attentive, caring, and loving staff made Quinn a temporary home for full evaluation and treatment. It meant Tracy and I would need to leave him in their care and return to a very empty seeming home.
We received reasonably regular updates on his progress from the medical diagnosis of his likely polymyositis to discussion of all reasonable treatment plans. We even caught some personal moments such as his stepping out with his original trainer(!), Chrissie, for a morning walk. He paused, pointed his nose off towards the nearby parking location where Tracy and I had parked with him. He attempted to air scent, searching for us and gave a low whine. Our boy was feeling some of the same longing and love that we experienced away from him. Heart-wrenching to hear but heart warming as well.
“No Home is complete without the patter of dog feet” – unknown
Quinn possesses a mighty presence indeed and the vacant hollow feeling of his absence is ever present without him in our home. I miss him foremost as my friend and partner for our day-to-day interactions. The comfort of our routines starts with the eager morning greeting which calls me from my bed each morning. I talk to him throughout my day, curl him into my lap for a grooming session which soothes each of us, and a hundred other little events which are part of my every day. These hollow hurts are likely understood by many and certainly are the foremost in my sadness.
His working world is such a constant life integration, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit how many subtle aspects of his work I’ve grown to take for granted. When weaving tables in a restaurant a cane feels like such a cumbersome club banging each chair or potentially even people as it finds and adjusts my route which was clearly designed for a sighted step to navigate. Asking friends and family to consider an elbow for sighted guide can often lead to a feeling of dependency I’d forgotten was so potent. Even the simple act of aiming towards a well known point becomes a series of attempts and adjustments which Quinn would have made simple.
Suddenly my mind is turned to all the details of daily navigation where once it was free to focus on the world around, the preparations for a work project or the joy of sharing a world with a loving friend beside me. All these are significant–and coldest of all the changes is the social isolation that comes from a cane, which seems to flee from the world when a tail-wagging pup is beside you. “Nobody ever asks to pet my cane” doesn’t come close to expressing the silent stares I feel in front of strangers who likely would have asked about Quinn but now fumble with their own silence uncertain how to bridge the gap they perceive between my blindness and their world.
I love Quinn for the warmth and wonder he brings into my life. I love him for the Guide work he so proudly performs. I love his courage, confidence, and dedication to all things including play! I love him for his ability to warm an uncertain world of strangers and I love him best of all for the joy and love of life which he expresses for himself.
I do believe the expert staff of Guiding Eyes and their commitment to the health and happiness of all their dogs will soon ensure that Quinn may return into our world. I have, however, had too much of a taste of what life without Quinn may mean and I take solace that for me, that is hopefully many years from now. I am reminded very powerfully of how fortunate so many of us are for the incredible gifts Guiding Eyes bestows upon their graduates month after month after month. Thank you to a most wonderful and worthy organization!