Alibi V.25 No.5 • Feb 4-10, 2016 

Pets

Always a Silver Lining

What blind dogs can teach us about hardship

Stanley and Porkchop
Stanley and Porkchop
Edward Goodman

Many people talk about “love at first sight” but for Stanley and Porkchop, their friendship burgeoned without either ever seeing the other’s tail wag or ever knowing the color of the other's fur. That's because Stanley and Porkchop are both blind. In a world where they were unwanted, their discovery of one another serves as a powerful parable. Their special bond is the subject of Edward Goodman's latest children's book, Stanley and Porkchop. “I've never seen two dogs in my life that are such tight friends,” Goodman said of Stanley and Porkchop, both of whom live with him in Corrales. Goodman then went on to describe the way the two sleep and eat side-by-side, play together ceaselessly and in the rare moment that they are apart, call out to one another.

Goodman hasn't just written stories about blind dogs, but in fact is the founder of a blind dog advocacy group, Tootsie's Vision, which he started in 2015 in the aftermath of his dog Tootsie's death. Tootsie, like Porkchop and Stanley, was also blind and was dumped on a back road in Corrales. “We decided to adopt her because no one wanted a blind dog,” Goodman explained. “We were kind of nervous about it … but she was just the best dog in the world.” Just before adopting Tootsie, Goodman learned that he had multiple sclerosis, a diagnosis that left him feeling angry and depressed. Yet, Tootsie's presence in his home illustrated something powerful to Goodman—“she didn't think about what she couldn't do, or what she wished she could do. It transformed me,” Goodman said of Tootsie's resilience.“[Blind dogs] are good teachers for people.”

Tootsie's Vision focuses on education, “demonstrating that this impairment is not a barrier to a full and joyful life,” as well as assisting with adopting out visually impaired dogs, providing monetary assistance for their medication, training dogs and their people and providing the unique kinds of enrichment that blind dogs need. That a “medium-sized, middle-aged, multi-colored mutt … with retinal atrophy” could inspire the rescue of other dogs like her is a testament to her character and more than that, that “they become friends of yours,” as Goodman put it. “And when they're gone, you miss them like you miss a person.”

Soon after Tootsie's death, Stanley entered the picture. “He was young … but the other dogs didn't want to play with him. He'd run into them and they were nervous around him. He was kind of lonely,” Goodman said of the dog, who was adopted from a rescue agency in the Navajo Nation. Porkchop came later. He had been living at a Rottweiler rescue where “he didn't get out much because he was too small and too blind.” Their fosters had struggled to place the two dogs. When Porkchop arrived the two bonded immediately. Goodman describes their relationship in his book: “The two once unwanted, unhappy and lonely blind dogs had discovered something … important … that true friendship does not require sight, only understanding, acceptance and love.”

Goodman hopes that this story will have resonance beyond the animal world. “Just like people might think it is too difficult to be friends with disabled people … it tells children that everyone needs friends. They may not be able to play the same games and do the same things, but they still need that support.” He then went on to describe how Tootsie couldn't play frisbee or go for runs, but she loved to dig, so Goodman developed games based on this hobby. Goodman's devotion to these dogs was evident as he described how much they've impacted his life, adding almost as an afterthought, “They're there for you, they never judge you and they don't demand things from you. They just … you know, want to hang out.”

Tootsie's Vision, after less than one year, has assisted more than 50 blind dogs and Goodman has dreams of reaching more animals in need. Currently Stanley and Porkchop is available only on the Tootsie's Vision website, tootsiesvision.org, but will soon be offered at the Barnes & Noble on Alameda and local book vendors. You can also stay tuned in to upcoming education and outreach events on the website and make donations there. As Goodman and I's conversation ended he remarked, “It changes you to be with animals. It makes you see the world differently,” and that shift in focus is what Tootsie's Vision and Stanley and Porkchop is all about.