Sheri Wren Haymore
We have a little blind pup named Cercie (pronounced “Surcee,” from an old colloquialism meaning “a surprise gift”). She found us at our campground on the New River, an unkempt, flea-bitten, saucy scamp of a dog. It was late in September with nobody else around to claim her, so she came home with us. Of course, we took her to the veterinarian the next day. After examining her and declaring that she had three kinds of worms, the doctor said, “This little girl has been on the ground a while.” Then he added, “Dogs are very resilient. They can usually overcome the things they’ve been through.”
She may have been a stray, but Cercie wasted no time taking over our lives. In the ten-plus years since, we’ve learned quite a few things from this sweet mutt.
Stretch yourself. As soon as it grew dark that first night, Cercie hid underneath our camper, something she’d no doubt been doing for some time to feel safe. I had to haul her out and push her inside the camper where she needed to be. For a dog who apparently ran wild for months, she had much to learn. Imagine being forced to live indoors and always constrained on a leash outside when you want to run free. Imagine living among strangers who have assumptions regarding your behavior when you don’t speak the language. Imagine being given squeaky toys that obviously require killing, and not understanding why this makes your pack leader laugh and fuss at the same time. Recently, when we purchased foam steps to help her get on and off the sofa, I wondered whether she was too blind and too old to learn to use them. I made a game of it, and it took her about one minute to get the hang of it. Just as she naturally stretches her body several times daily, Cercie remains eager to stretch her abilities and understanding.
As Cercie and I have become old ladies together, she reminds me to stretch both my body and mind if I want to feel young.
Be fierce when necessary. Once, when I was strolling the long driveway that runs through the campground with Cercie tagging along on a leash, a larger, mean dog attacked from behind. Fortunately, when the mean dog went for her throat, it came away with only a mouthful of fur. Separating the two dogs was scary because little Cercie was not backing down. We figure that during Cercie’s time “on the ground,” she had to fight coyotes both real and imagined. I’ve seen that fierce “Tasmanian devil” come out in our sweet pup on several occasions. She certainly knows how to stand up for herself.
Personally, I don’t like confrontation, but there are times when it can’t be avoided. Cercie has taught me that it’s necessary to let my voice be heard on things that matter.
Be lead dog. Cercie is completely blind, yet she often wants to be lead dog. She cracks me up in Lowes Hardware sometimes. She may not know where she is or where we’re heading, but there she goes, trotting ahead confidently, little ears pricked forward. That independent, self-assured attitude is one of the things that keeps us on our toes. We need to watch her every minute to keep her from getting hurt. And yet, she’s simply following her natural inclination, acting the way she was created and trusting us to be her eyes.
In high school, I felt as anxious and confused as anyone; therefore, it came as a surprise recently when an old friend said to me, “You always seemed to know who you were and where you were going.” Cercie reminds me to surround myself with trustworthy friends who know me well enough to call out my own lead dog within.
Ask for what you want. Now that she’s older, Cercie is content to spend most of her days snoozing in a patch of sunshine. She can be very specific with her wishes, however. When we hear her barking from one of the bedrooms, she wants one of us to come play. If she’s in our room, she wants my husband to get on the floor and fight with her, and she will not stop her fierce, growling play until she’s drawn blood. If she’s in the other room, she wants me to play blankie, which means scratch her tail while she tunnels under her blanket on the floor. If she raises her paw, she wants her belly rubbed.
Cercie teaches me—raised by a polite Southern lady—that it’s okay to make my wishes known.
Shake it off. Just as her doctor predicted, Cercie is quite resilient. She shook off her early illnesses, gained weight and moved into her new life without looking back. Only four years old when she became blind, she took it in stride and learned to navigate her environment with ease. She accepts her circumstances as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
While I’m not sure I can ever be as accepting and resilient as little Cercie, she reminds me that my well-being depends on shaking things off whenever possible. She reminds me that there is life beyond difficult circumstances.
Do I sometimes wish Cercie could be a bit less yappy, less independent, a little more cuddly? I could say yes, but then she wouldn’t be our Cercie, would she? The most important thing our little pup has taught us is this: appreciate the people you love for who they are.Even the yappy ones have something to teach us.
If you’d like to hear more about Cercie’s journey, please watch “Finding Your Place” on my YouTube channel, @sherihaymore4025