This is me and my sister Sophie, who now lives the life in Iowa. First day Mom and I met!
In the summer of 2001, three adorable young dachshunds were dropped off at an animal shelter during the night. They were estimated at about 10 months old. I was on year 4 of fighting myself to not get another dog after going through the pain of losing my last longhaired dachshund, Jessie. But when my eyes met with the black and tan girls behind the chain link, I knew I was in trouble.
Me and my sister and brother, first day at Mom's house.
I took the 3 home to "foster" them, (for those that don't know, "foster" is a an old Celtic word that loosely translates into "this one ain't goin' anywhere"). I actually prayed that Hallie would have some kind of quirk or bad habit so I'd be able to give her up more easily, but she was nothing but sweet, funny, happy, loving, cuddly, smart....she didn't even bark and was housebroken! Crud!The other two went to wonderful homes and Hallie stayed. Interesting enough, when I was a kid I pictured my future daughter just about exactly like her.
My Schutzhund medal was so big, I had to sit on a chair to get my photo!
The last 10 years have literally flown by. I am fortunate enough to work from home so we are rarely more than a few feet apart. She drapes herself across my shoulder as I paint and often as I work on the computer. She goes with me everywhere. I discovered she loved to learn and show off, so I got her ILP# and she got her CD, RN, B (Yes, a dachshund with a Schutzhund title!) and her CGC. We would have loved to go on but I didn't want to risk that dachshund back with jumping. So we retired and worked on tricks instead.
One day while painting with her snoozing away over my shoulder, I thought, I wonder if she would like to learn how to paint. So we got to work and she loved it. Within a few days she was picking the brush up out of the paint cup, going over to the paper and making strokes and dabs. She would never want to stop, if I set the brush down and told her how good she was and it was time to stop, she would quickly grab the brush back and start painting again.
It was April 1, 2010 when our world turned upside down, Hallie had gone blind literally overnight from SARDs (Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration), an autoimmune disease that attacks the retinas. It's not an extremely common disorder, but of the dogs that do get it, dachshunds seem to be top of the list, as well as spayed females and dogs with allergies. Hallie fit all three. In my desperation, I flew with her to Iowa State University to a researcher, Dr. Sansini Grodanic (if anyone is dealing with SARDs, please feel free to contact me!). Dr. Grodanic has had success with regaining enough sight for dogs to be able to navigate well in decent light, and some even better than that. But it has to be done as soon as they are diagnosed, and he wasn't able to see her for 3 weeks. So by the time we got there, unfortunately her retinas had gone from normal on the day of her diagnosis, to detached in many places, full of holes and just all beat up. So treatment wasn't an option for her.
We came home very disappointed, I padded our house with body pillows indoors, and outdoors with blow up pool mattresses. It felt like life was over, I felt so sorry for her, and for me too with all that we'd miss. Hallie let herself be down in the dumps for a couple of weeks, then because of the amazing spirit she is, she decided to say heck with it and just have a good life.
She still goes everywhere with me. She can get around the house and yard pretty darn good. We started a Canine Nose Work class which she absolutely loves and does very well at! She recently entered and passed her first ORT (Odor Recognition Test) where she found the hide in a minute flat. She is doing her tricks again. And I helped her re-learn how to paint.
She amazed me on the first try, by reaching out and picking the brush up out of the paint cup just like she used to, as if she could see it. The only thing I had to do was tap the paper so she knew where to paint, but I'm having to do even that less and less now. She again will grab the brush when I tell her how wonderful she is but it's time to stop, and start painting on her own, she doesn't want to quit. Oddly, her paintings have taken on a different quality compared to her pre-blindness paintings. And she often paints her red beret, which she wears during her sessions.
Hallie's days are filled with praise (even for doing nothing at all), hugs, kisses, cuddles, treats, and doing all the things she loves most that I can possibly give her. She has out sold me at more than one art show! And the proceeds of her sales go to Purple Heart Rescue, a wonderful organization in Washington State, to help a little, other dogs who are in the same place where she started out.
Thank you for helping her, help them!