Society’s pressure makes coping with blindness difficult for people. When our dogs lose vision, they don’t have to face these expectations. They don’t worry about disappointment; they don’t worry about cultural pressures. And this frees them to explore without inhibition using all of their other senses. Not just with hearing and smelling as you might imagine, but by using texture difference in the floor beneath them or by remembering temperature gradient within a familiar room. They adapt. Quickly.
The other day I explored a website designed to children who are either born blind or have lost vision. There was a section to help parents help their kids learn how to participate in society. It was real and it was practical, and the tasks that they detailed are necessary for blind children to be able to participate in their daily activities. But I was also overcome by this tremendous sense of frustration for these children as I realized that one of the reasons the dogs do so well is because they don’t have to face these artificial man-made obstacles. A blind dog doesn’t have to worry about the right way to hold a fork or why he should use a fork at all. Wouldn’t it be infinitely easier for a child to use her fingers find the food on the plate? A dog who has lost his vision uses his nose or the sound of the bowl scraping floor as a signal to dive in and readily feast, regardless of what he might look like to someone who’s watching him.