From November 22, 2014
My mum’s dog, Cooper, has turned running into a full-body contact sport. No longer are legs the primary focus of the activity. Oh no, it’s all or nothing, at least for Cooper.
Cooper is an Australian Shepard, and as such, he feels the need to herd his people, primarily by jabbing them sharply with his nose as he passes us by. As a younger dog, this wasn’t really a problem, as his nose pokes were generally well placed so as to leave only a big wet smudge on our legs but not knock us over. Over the last couple of years, however, Cooper has steadily become blind to the point that he now sees by crashing into things. Walls, doors, tables, people, they’re all the same to him.
Despite his blindness, he continues to be extremely active and his daily run with us is the highlight of his day, as my mum says. So, you can only imagine how running has changed. The thing, we’ve discovered, about running with a blind dog is, he not only gets lost easily but he has turned our little jog into an exercise in not falling. When we aren’t continually turning around to make sure Cooper isn’t romping in the middle of the field, thinking he’s following us when we’re a quarter of a mile in the opposite direction, we’re getting ready to crash and burn.
Every few minutes the cycle repeats itself. We start off, going slow, as that is the only speed possible on the snowy, icy ground. Cooper stops after a few feet to sniff a tumbleweed for an exorbitant amount of time during which we call to him so he knows which way to run. And then, BAM! He runs up behind us and throws his whole body at our legs, tangling his feet with ours, which, on the ice, makes for some interesting ballet moves to stay upright.
My mum takes it all in good stride, literally. She’s had months more practice at the balancing act than I have, but I think she also is taking Cooper’s blindness better than I am. It is so hard to watch him bonk into the refrigerator, thinking it’s me, or fall into a hole while running because he doesn’t see it. Mum though, just showers Cooper with love and keeps taking him out, because that is what he wants. He has been and will be our good running buddy until he no longer wants to go. In the meantime, we just hope that he doesn’t take us out too badly.