Meet Bridget McGee!

 Bridget McGee came into my life in 1996 at a time when I could not have needed her more. Three months prior, the very first dog I actually called “my very own,” Noel, a toy poodle, had passed away at the age of 12. Although Noel was not well, her death was an unexpected shock, and I was literally a basket case following her passing. All I could do was cry. The tears would not stop. The only thing that eased the heartache during that difficult time after Noel’s death was the knowledge that very soon, a tiny toy poodle would again enter into my life. I needed her desperately, and she needed me.

Bridget and I bonded quickly. We became inseparable in the hour’s drive from the breeder’s home to my home. In her 13 years of life, Bridget has, without a doubt, spent more time in my arms than anywhere else, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fact that she’s never weighed more than five pounds has made picking Bridget up and toting her as natural as breathing. I’ve always said my little Bridget has touched my heart in a very special way, undoubtedly because she’s spent so much time close to my heart over the years.

Bridget is a special little poodle in many ways. It is truly a miracle she’s made it to 13 years of age as she’s had more brushes with death than one would ever think possible. Currently, she takes medication for her thyroid, her heart, her tummy, and her eyes. She’s had at least three bouts of pancreatitis and aches and pains in her body that have left both me and my vet bewildered and Bridget lethargic and in pain.

I’m hesitant to say that during one of Bridget’s many trips to an emergency clinic at an ungodly hour on a weekend I gave the on-call vet permission to put Bridget to sleep. At the time, the belief was her heart was giving out. It was beating erratically and she was too weak to stand. I could not, in good conscience, put that little dog through any more than she’d already been through. With a tear-streaked face I told the vet to please let her go. The vet was very young, and I really believe it was his inexperience that prompted him to encourage me to take Bridget to a prestigious animal hospital in Boston. He told me he did not know for sure what was wrong with her, and he hesitantly mentioned that he really did not think she’d even make the trip to Boston. I knew I had to at least attempt to find out what was wrong with her before a final decision was made, so in the wee morning hours of a very gloomy day, my husband and I and Bridget made the trek.

Well, Bridget not only made it to Boston, but two days later, she was back home. Albeit it literally took her three days before she snapped out of her shocked state that always results when she’s separated from me, but I got my baby back. That was just one of the many miraculous moments in this little dog’s life.

About three years ago, Bridget started to see an animal ophthalmologist due to a cataract and other changes in her left eye. Because of Bridget’s other health issues, eye surgery would never have been an option. With the passing of another year, it became apparent that Bridget was developing a cataract in her right eye as well. Within the past six months, both cataracts have matured fully, and she’s been declared “legally blind.”

Of course, this wasn’t news to me. At first, the changes were subtle. I’d be standing right next to her, and she’d walk off in the opposite direction in search of me. Then it became obvious that Bridget’s safety was at risk. I watched her without hesitation walk off our deck and fall a good foot and a half on to our lower deck as I ran towards her screaming, “No, Bridget. Stop!” I could not prevent her fall, but I softened her landing just a bit. Although she was shaken, she was not hurt.

I also noticed that Bridget was walking into doors rather than waiting for me to open them. And there was the time when she attempted to go down a flight of stairs, she miscalculated her footing and started to fall. By some miracle of God, I had sensed something was amiss, and I managed to stop her fall at the third stair from the top. Had I not caught her, she would’ve tumbled down 12 stairs, and I don’t think she would’ve survived that.

There was no denying at that point that we had a blind dog, and it became apparent that we were going to have to take steps to blind proof our home and make it a safe haven for Bridget.

We live in a log home, so the first thing my husband did was put lattice work between the railings in our loft. We did not want Bridget to nonchalantly walk off our loft and fall 12 feet down into our living room. Then my husband constructed lattice gates at the tops and bottoms of all our staircases. They are a bit of an inconvenience when your hands are full and you’re trying to make your way up and down the stairs, but we don’t complain as the comfort they provide us in knowing Bridget is safe is priceless.

The cat hole in the cellar door posed another problem. Despite its diminutive size, Bridget did manage to find her way through it, and I found her in our basement. God must’ve given her wings that day because that’s another 12 steps without carpeting, and I honestly do not know how she managed to pull off that stunt and walk away completely unscathed. Our cat needed access to his box, so we could not shut his door. We started propping obstacles in front of the hole. Our cat could pass, but Bridget would bump into the obstacles and veer away. My husband decided to staple a small, flat pillow to the door itself right in front of the cat hole. Now, the pillow swings with the opening and closing of the door, our cat steps over the pillow and has full access to his box, and Bridget bumps into the pillow and proceeds to walk around it.

I’d say it took us a good two weeks to cover all the bases and make our home safe for Bridget. But with a lot of thought and a bit of effort, we are content in our knowledge that Bridget is safe in our home, and I think Bridget herself is happy with the changes as she walks around with great confidence and no fear.

Bridget shares her home with not only our Siamese but also with her “sisters,” a red standard poodle, Ceara, (5 years old) and a brown standard poodle, Gertrude, (8 months old.) They appear to sense her handicap and are very accommodating. If they are laying on the floor and Bridget bumps into them, they don’t jump up in a panic, they usually just look at her as if to say, “Oh, it’s just you,” then go back to sleep. Despite the difference in sizes between Bridget, Ceara and Gertrude, the two standard poodles are gentle, cautious and very understanding of Bridget’s limitations. There is no doubt they love their sister and would never intentionally hurt her.

It is quite an experience living with a blind dog, but one I would not trade. I really don’t think Bridget even realizes she is unable to see. My husband and I jumped through hoops to make her world safe, but she never missed a beat and has continued on as if nothing has changed.

I consider myself Bridget’s seeing-eye person. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my little girl to make her happy and comfortable. And when God does call his little angel home, although my heart will be irreparably broken, I will find comfort in knowing how lucky I was to have been able to love her and to have been able to give her such a wonderful life. Until that day comes, I will just enjoy her and the unique experiences that come with being owned by a blind dog – oh, and I will treasure every moment I spend with my arms wrapped around her little body as I continue to hold her close to my heart.

Story by Laurie J. Rollins
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