Bruno, who is deaf, and Tootsie, who is blind, wear harnesses during the day. Each harness announces that dog’s particular limitation in large capital letters; not essential to us because we already know, but nevertheless helpful to visitors. Each harness also has a handle that snugs across the dog’s back between the shoulder blades. That handle is the real reason for the apparel. Someday I will actually count the number of times that I touch or grab or literally lift one of them up by that handle. It has become an instinctive part of my doggy repertoire, like sticking a leg out to block the open door or pushing back the plate of food set too near the table edge.
Bruno and Tootsie each think they are operating perfectly well without access to one of their basic senses and I am truly amazed at their resourcefulness. But life is hectic around here with horses and dogs and other moving parts. Tootsie is somewhat “voice activated” — a sharp “no” or “careful” can momentarily stop her in her tracks. Bruno is somewhat “sight activated” — a wave of a hand in his face or beckoning gesture can change his line of direction. Or not. We needed a way to physically redirect without harm or offense and the harnesses have given us that. Wearing the harness has become second nature to them as has accepting guidance and sometimes quick intervention by us taking hold of that handle. When the harnesses come off at night, I see Bruno and Tootsie in their more vulnerable state and it makes me grow tender in my heart for how important that taking hold is to them. Together. We are in this together.