Monday, April 9, 2012

Niki's Blog

I asked Niki and Jez if they would like to send something to post to the blog and, thankfully, they said yes. So, while I take a day or two off writing, here is Niki's story about how and why she became involved with Ray the Blind Dog.

Meeting Ray

Who would have thought that around two years ago when Jez and I agreed to foster a blind greyhound, only a week after adopting our first (sighted) rescued greyhound, that it would lead to a transatlantic meeting facilitated by the peculiar route of youtube and facebook.
Well, strange but true. As I googled the words....caring for a blind various combinations, I stumbled across a link to a video called Ray the Blind Dog at the dog park. I watched it and some of the other ones containing Ray and was heartened at the way this gangly pooch embraced life despite his lack of vision. So reassured was I by this revelation, that I decided I must contact the owner to thank them for helping me realize how a blind dog can just take life in stride. So, I sent either an email or a comment and received a really nice response. The rest is history.
Jean and I became facebook friends and I followed Ray's blog. From the written exchanges we had, it emerged we had a similar sense of the ridiculous, and I thought if there was not a huge sea between us, that Jean seemed like the sort of gal I could hang around with. So anyway, when Jez and I arranged to meet my USA-dwelling brother and his family in NYC in 2012, I had the idea of combining that with a trip to meet the dog that sparked an online relationship!
I sent a tentative email to Jean asking that, if she didn't think it was a bit too weird, we would love to come and meet Ray and his family in person. Thankfully, she didn't seem to think it was SO weird that her immediate reaction was ", no way, you strange English person." (Well I knew she was a generous spirited sort when she sent my greyhound a babble ball after I mentioned I was thinking of getting one!) And so plans were made.
We duly arrived in Fairfax County via the Megabus from NYC and the metro in DC, on Wednesday, 4th April 2012. Jean was unsure of exactly what we looked like so I just said Jez is tall and I am small and hoped that would be sufficient. In the end, we easily spotted Jean as she waited in the car park with the instantly-recognizable Ray attached to her. I know Ray loves to meet new people so I won't flatter myself that I got extra special treatment, but he was truly welcoming and showed the right level of doggy excitement when he grabbed my arm (very gently) and gave me doggylicious licks and snuffles. Jean managed to resist emulating Ray's exuberance, but then she is only the sidekick after all.
We were a little embarrassed that Jean had made a journey from the suburbs to transport us to our hotel a mere 0.9 miles from the metro, but as she explained as she dropped us off, that first impression was the make or break of the next couple of days. Had we failed to pass muster she already had the 'our house burnt down' excuse pending, should she need to avoid any further encounters.
Thankfully we passed the interview process and were able to move on to the next step of interacting with Ray in his home environment. This was set up to take place the following evening after Jean had spent the day fervently preparing the house (currently undergoing some renovation to the living room) and also creating a homemade vegetarian meal for the annoyingly fussy guests (who had also just sprung the extra issue of one of them trying to avoid dairy).
Her newly-formed taxi company was once again called into service and the overseas visitors arrived to have more face-to-face Ray time. He seemed impressed with the offering of home baked doggy biscuits all the way from England and although Jean seemed confident he would turn his nose up at anything containing vegetables, he did what most dogs love doing best....i.e. showing off in front of their owners, and scoffed one down heartily.
Jez and I were introduced to Ray's other chief carer, Gregg, and offerings of wine and chocolate were handed over so the humans did not feel left out. We then gave Ray lots of belly and ear rubs until he royally decided we had taken up enough of his snooze time and retired to the sofa.
He managed to come and investigate later on when he realized we were eating without having invited him to join in. Ray also magically materialized out of thin air while we were being introduced to Moonie, the elderly moggie upstairs, in a definite case of 'excuse me but I am the superstar in this house so don't even bother with the feline inhabitants'.
At the end of a very pleasant evening, Ray once again allowed himself to be fussed over, even though normally he would be getting his beauty sleep. He is getting used to the idea that fame comes at a price.
On Friday we were given the next level of doggy interaction by accompanying Ray to the lake for his daily constitution. It was a lovely day and Jez was privileged enough to be handed the lead. (He does have some blind dog-walking training under his belt though, having owned one back in UK for 2 years, so not everyone can expect this level of contact.)
Later that evening Ray co-hosted a beer and bonfire evening after he had supervised the preparation from the sunny spot in the border. It was a rousing success and the British guests proved to be a bit of a novelty for the older (not in years) members of the fan club. Ray took the opportunity to show off his baying skills, so that anyone who had not been invited was well aware of the intended snub.
Alas, the overseas guests then had to depart after a short but fulfilling visit to a hound so full of character and personality that we felt compelled to make that extra effort to make his acquaintance. The bonus was that his owners are of equal charm, and we hope to continue our newly-formed friendship with them, and Ray, in the future.
So long Ray, and thanks for all the fish.


  1. And so say all of us (even if I would make the small adjustment of enjoying face-2-snout time with Ray) ... my take on our dogtastic escapade pending