A few months ago, Margaret, my nine-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu x Toy Poodle went blind. She has SARS – some tragic medical condition that middle-aged, slightly overweight female dogs are prone to get. Who knew!
I have felt so incredibly sad for Margaret. She is a beautiful soul who loves to run and run and run. The highlight of her week used to be when we would go to this park near us that has multiple ovals and I’d let her off the lead and let her run.
Now she walks tentatively around the house. She regularly walks gently into a wall, using this as a signpost as to where she needs to go next.
When she first lost her sight, she would often get “lost” in the kitchen, not knowing how to find us, particularly if she got very excited because someone had arrived at the house.
We have had to make a lot of adjustments to ensure that Margaret is safe. We can’t move the furniture; we can’t get out a box or a folding chair for a future event and leave it in a corridor. We bought her a special frame that goes on her collar that helps her “feel” the wall or furniture before she hits her head.
But most importantly we need to talk to Margaret. We need to talk to her a lot. She needs to know who has come home; she needs constant reassurance that we are looking after her. She is scared and she is seeking us out all the time wanting to know that she is safe.
But despite this major change in her capabilities she is still our fun-loving, run-everywhere Margaret.
She still runs when I take her for a walk (always on a lead now); even if she sometimes accidentally runs into fences or trees. Her angel frame doesn’t work that well when she is going fast. I spend most of the walk trying to help her avoid injury.
She still chases a ball if you don’t throw it too far. She still lets my 22-month-old granddaughter “pat” her without getting grumpy.
And with every day she is growing in confidence; adjusting to this new life without sight.
This experience has taught me so much.
I really struggled when she first lost her sight. I couldn’t imagine how her life could be fulfilling if she didn’t have sight. I questioned her quality of life; because I thought about how I would deal with losing my sight. I had already made an assumption that I wouldn’t cope and therefore she wouldn’t cope.
Then I felt guilty for having this thought. I was grieving. I was grieving for Margaret and I was grieving for me. My dog, whom I love dearly and whom I know loves me, had lost her sight and our world and everything we knew and were confident about has changed, forever.
Margaret was so low and depressed when she first lost her sight, she had multiple “accidents” in the house. She hid under blankets and in cupboards. She was scared and lost. But three months on and she is slowly adjusting to this new world order. She is walking more confidently around the house.
She has needed to be “seen” more; she has needed a lot of reassurance.
And I am adjusting too. And we are both still madly in love with each other.
People in your team will go through trials and tribulations; they will get “lost”, they will lose their direction, their circumstances will change, and their mood might change whilst they go through difficult times. But they are still important; they are still part of your team. Sometimes we need to make significant changes to accommodate someone’s needs but it’s worth it.
Because people matter.