“Blind and deaf? What quality of life will he have? He’d be better off dead.” That was the response I got many times over when I told people about the new puppy I was getting. Later it was “Oh, the poor thing…” when they were introduced. Now that he’s grown, people ask what his name is and what do I do with a handicap dog. And that’s when I get to smile and say : “This is Kandoo, and he can do everything.”
He can go up and down stairs, navigate the back yard, swim at the lake and come when the porch light blinks. He sleeps in bed, goes to dog events, has even hiked on the Appalachian Trail. He’s 65lbs of bouncing border collie love, has never met a stranger and everything is his favorite, except for running. Running is his very favorite.
The moment I lace up my shoes he’s at the door, hoping to be my running buddy of the day. I clip on his leash and off we go – his head down, a steady trot that eats up the miles, and a big smile on his face. We work some hills and do a few sprint sets. Six miles later we’re back at the front door, still smiling.
While I have several ‘normal’ dogs at home, I prefer running with my handicap fellows, Kandoo and Will (who is also blind and deaf). Unlike my other dogs, these guys are not distracted by cars, squirrels or cows. They don’t pull towards other runners or the neighbor’s terrier. Much like a horse’s reins, they use leash cues for guidance and are trained with touch commands on different parts of their body. They’ve been blind and deaf since birth, so to Kandoo and Will the lack of sight and sound is not a handicap, it is just the way life is – and they still can do anything.