Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ray, the INTREPID Blind Dog

Ray the Intrepid
"Let's do something different this weekend," said Gregg. "We haven't done anything new lately, and the summer is just slipping away."
"Great idea!" I replied, "What did you have in mind?"
"Let's get up early, take the dog and go hiking at Fountainhead Park," proposed my lovely husband.
I agreed enthusiastically. So on Saturday, we did just that.
Usually on the weekend, we'll drive to the lake and hike the trail there, but I thought a change of scenery would be just what we all needed. We piled into the car and took off. Ray, as usual, immediately curled up in the back seat, but the minute we passed the usual turnoff to the lake, Ray stood and started whining. I'm not sure if he was trying to warn us that we had missed the turn or he was excited to be going somewhere new. I rolled down the windows in back so that Ray could hang his head out. He took deep breaths of the air, his ears were flapping in the breeze.
When we got to the park, we found that there were three trails: one for mountain biking, one for horse and rider and really serious hikers (more than 17 miles long), and one that was only a couple of miles long. We decided that maybe Ray wasn't quite ready for a 17 mile hike so chose the two mile trail.
Not knowing what we would find at Fountainhead, I had brought both of Ray's leashes, the 6 foot leather leash, and the retractable leash. I figured, if we were going to be running into a lot of people, it's easier to keep Ray from lunging for their faces (still something he surprises me with every now and again) when he is on the shorter, leather leash. But if there weren't going to be a lot of people around, the retractable leash is good for Ray because it lets him get more exercise. He can dally then run to catch up. He can jog out front. He can wander a bit farther to sniff things. He really likes the retractable leash but it is not a good idea when there are lots of people and dogs to meet and greet.
We set out. It wasn't even 10 o'clock but it was already hot and steamy. I had Ray on the retractable leash and had the leather leash hanging around my neck.
After 5 minutes, the back of my neck was sweating. I said to Gregg, "I should have left this leash in the car. I don't think we're going to be meeting many people out here."
Just then the trail did a switchback and we were skimming the parking lot.
Gregg said, "Let me just run and put it in the car. I'll be right back."
He took the leash and jogged off. I looked around. The trail we were on didn't look that bad. The woods were a lot denser and the trail was narrower than at the lake, and it was muddy from all the recent rain, but still, not too bad.
Gregg returned and off we went. Ray seemed to be having a marvelous time. He was leading. I was trying to keep him on the trail.

I know there's a coon out there with my name on it.

After about 15 minutes in, I put the brake on Ray's leash. The trail went straight down. I walked up to the top of the steeeeep drop and said "Uh oh."
Gregg walked up next to me. "Let me go down first," he said.
"Good idea." I replied, "That way if I fall, you can catch me."
When Gregg got to the bottom, he turned and called, "Come on, Ray! I'm right here!"
I took the brake off the leash and let Ray pick his way down, heading for the sound of Gregg's voice. I was picking my own way down behind him. I was congratulating myself on bringing the correct leash thinking how hard it would be to try to keep Ray from pulling me over while on a short leash.
At least, that was my thought until we came to the part of the trail that had the steep drop-off to the side. And the part of the trail that had the footbridge with no rails and the gaps between the boards that were so wide that dog paws could slip through. And then the other part of the trail that had the steep drop-off on the other side. And the other two footbridges with the wide gaps, etc. etc. etc.
What drop-off?

It was an exciting hike, fraught with peril for a blind dog, but Ray took it all in stride. He forded creeks. He climbed. He jumped over fallen logs (walk him to the log, let him feel the height with his chest, tell him to jump). He did his "I smell something" dance. (Back feet stay in place, nose goes straight up in air, front feet do a little jig from side to side). He explored a graveyard.
I smell dead people.

In short, he enjoyed himself immensely.

(I just like this one)


  1. Sounds like a wonderful day hike!! I am glad you all had a good time. It is always good to try new things and go places you dont ordinarily go. Expands your mind, and Rays. I think it is interesting he knew when you passed the usual turn off place!! Very impressive Ray!!! (oh, and the mousie in the housie had me giggling, a lot!!! thanks for sharing)

  2. You gave Ray a gift Saturday, a (safe) adventure and new things. I saw our neighbor 2 doors down who heard Ray yell. She told me she felt sorry for "that poor dog" I explained that Ray was probably one of the happiest dogs I know even though he is blind. She felt better:)

  3. Thanks for sticking up for Ray. I always tell people who feel sorry for Ray that there's no reason. He doesn't know he's blind and we don't tell him.
    Good God. There is nothing "poor dog" about Ray. I've always said the only difference between Ray and sighted dogs is he gets into more stuff. "Am I a Grownup Now" (who regularly posts comments) says the same thing about Blind Conor, her Greyhound.
    (I just heard chewing and walked around the couch. Ray just ate my flip flop. Oh that POOOOOOORRRRRR DOG)

  4. haha, you are so right Jean, Conor enjoys the life he has whatever it is, the only difference for him is if we visit someones house, he does not settle as easily as Minty, but on the end of a lead he is like any other dog,keen and eager to sniff out new exciting smells...he has recovered from his 'little op' really well, his nickname of conkers will remain I think, despite the fact they are somewhat deflated ! I will get Jez to upload some video to fb of him playing with my Mums new pooch Eddie, it is very cute ....

  5. Ray doesn't settle when we go to a new house either. However, I've noticed that it's because he's memorizing the layout. Depending on the size of the house, it takes him about half a day. He just paces and paces, doing the same routes over and over until he's got it down. He does the same thing with yards. Paces and paces. He runs into things at first but by the time he's done memorizing, he doesn't. He is one smart cookie.
    I'm looking forward to the video of Conor and Eddie. That Eddie is sooo cute!