As the weeks and months went by and it was obvious that Ray was not a demonstrative dog (at least not to me, he was always happy to see everyone else though), I took comfort in knowing that at least his trust in me was growing.
Last week as I was walking around the block, I passed by Ralph (of the "Promised Land") who was mowing his lawn. He turned off his mower as I approached. "Hey," he said, "Would you like to let Ray in the backyard to see if he'll play with Rambo?"
"Sure," I replied, glancing through the chain link at Rambo who was putting up a ruckus on the other side. I led Ray to the fence and looked into the backyard. It was one big booby trap for a blind dog but I had been impressed with the way Ray had handled Ken's backyard a few weeks previously. So I followed Ralph into the yard, removed Ray's leash, and turned him loose.
Rambo was still barking but nervously skittered out of Ray's way as he started to pick his way down the graveled path. Ralph went to fetch Comet, who he attached to a long tether. "Comet jumps the fence," explained Ralph. I looked admiringly at the tall dog, it was a tall fence and I found myself wanting to see Comet in action.
The dogs sniffed interestedly at each other for a moment, then Ray took off to explore. He is an intrepid explorer and loves to go into other peoples' houses and yards. Every time he approached an obstacle I would yell "step up" or "be careful," two phrases that I use consistently to warn Ray of impending problems.
"Does he not see so well?" asked Ralph. (Guess I forgot to tell him. Ooops. My bad.)
Ralph had a retaining wall to the left of the path along which Ray was gingerly picking his way, the house was to the right. The path ended at a chain link fence which enclosed a 'patio' (for Comet?). Ray came to the end of the path at the chain link fence, he turned to the retaining wall, it was chest-high to him. "Step up, Ray," I urged. The backyard sloped up from the retaining wall, first a small stand of ivy and trees, then grass and open yard.
Ray muscled up to the retaining wall, stood on his hind legs to get a feel for where the ground was then jumped up into the ivy (I was so proud). He walked through the ivy, using the chain link as a guide until he reached the end of the yard (another fence in front of him). He turned to come back, got about half way back, and stopped dead.
"Come on, Ray," I called, "Come on."
Ray didn't move. Just stood and looked at me.
"What's wrong buddy? Are you lost?" I asked.
I jumped up in the ivy and went to lead him out. A long, whiplike stem of forsythia that was arching across the route that Ray had traveled, had caught the back of his collar and was holding him immobile. Ray didn't struggle, just waited for me to rescue him.
I thought of what I had told my dad almost two years (!) ago and realized that we were there, Ray and I. For someone who's never owned a dog before, it's been a rocky road full of pitfalls. But somehow I have gained the absolute trust of a blind dog.