Meet Mr. Rollo

Love is Blind: Life Lessons from Mr. Rollo

It was the last day of my cancer treatment – January 17, 2011.  We would go to CARTI early that morning for the last of the radiation, and then would proceed south on Interstate 30 to Mount Pleasant, TX.  It would be there that we would finally meet, adopt and pick-up Rollo, the newest member of the family.
I found this handsome Corgi boy on the Internet posted by a Texas Corgi rescue group.  His story went like this:  Rollo was found lost and abandoned in downtown Fort Worth, TX.  He was probably seven or eight-years-old, weighed only 14 pounds (average for a Corgi male is 30), was blind, heartworm positive, suffering from diabetes and covered in mange.  The rescue group took him in treated the mange, got him stabilized on insulin and posted him on their rescue site for anyone to adopt.
My own Corgi, Abbey Rose, was in the market for a companion.  With my cancer treatments complete and my plan to return full-time to work, it seemed logical for Abbey to have a friend to play with each day.  I was committed to finding the perfect rescue dog, and it would soon be Rollo.  For whatever reason, his photo and special needs called out to me.  I would continue to go back to the site for several weeks, just looking at this special boy.
After finally sending an email inquiry, I would soon discover that Rollo had been in rescue for six months with nobody expressing any interest in adopting him.  That cinched the adoption for me.
They say love is blind when you don’t see imperfections and flaws towards another person – or a dog.  Instead, you simply become head over heels in love and lose your ability to use your brains to think.  And that’s what happened to me.  All logic and matters of practicality left my mind.  We would drive to Texas and Rollo would move to Arkansas.
I’ve only become a dog person in the last two years; so taking on a blind dog who required insulin injections was certainly unfamiliar territory.  But love can make you ignore the shortcoming of the person (or dog) you’re in love with.  Such was the case with Rollo.  And I would soon learn many new lessons from this lovely boy who would become like another child.
A few things I learned right away.
Those without vision will use their sense of hearing more effectively.  What I mean – Rollo could hear everything inside and outside the house.  He could hear car doors shutting, jingling keys, barking dogs down the street, and the thunder (which he was terribly afraid of).  He could also hear me preparing his meal twice each day – the sound of the pantry door opening connected with the opening of the drawer that held the can opener. Rollo was a total auditory wizard!
Not untypical for an abandoned dog left to fend for himself, Rollo was rather “food aggressive” in the beginning.  He would eat every meal as if he was in a race and you never wanted to get between Rollo and his bowl.  Food was a real priority for this little man, but over time his aggression would turn into almost a celebration.  I called it “the Rollo Dance” – incessant barking and jumping up and down until I finally would get his bowl placed on the floor.  I would soon learn that the best way to keep this “dance” to a minimum was to get his insulin shot quietly prepared BEFORE I started prepping his food.
And that became another lesson for me.  I’ve never given anyone, including myself, a shot.  But Rollo’s favorite vet, Dr. Lauren Thomas, taught me the simple trick of giving a dog two insulin injections each day.  And for Rollo, the best time to do it was when he was eating.  He never flinched, never growled, never even raised an eyebrow.  Somehow he knew I would never hurt him, and whatever I was doing would be okay.  Rollo trusted me with all his heart – and hopefully I never betrayed that trust.
When you cannot see and the world is always dark as night, you might think he would develop a strong sense of dependence; but not Rollo.  He was a very strong-willed little guy who quickly learned how to get around on his own.  Abbey was a wonderful guide in the beginning, helping him get around the house and the yard, and down the street for walks.  But in time, Rollo knew the course and would make it on his own.  I had recently begun to let him walk by my side in the front yard – and he so loved it, so much to explore.
One of my favorite memories of this little man was our first visit to Little Rock’s puppy park.  Rollo had probably not been in such a vast space to roam in a long time, and with so many other dogs too.  While he was almost twice as big as Abbey, Rollo would stay right by her side that day, following her to the right and left and wherever she chose to wander.  It was a very touching moment to watch the two of them – Abbey knowing that she was his eyes, Rollo knowing that Abbey was to be trusted.
For the past three weeks, we’ve had some issues managing Rollo’s diabetes.  On Thursday and Friday, the health problems took a turn for the worse.  By Saturday morning, he was in complete diabetic crisis and would later pass away from this world and cross the Rainbow Bridge.
Another thing about Rollo – he was terribly afraid of the thunder, preferring to lay on top of me during a storm. During our first few storm episodes, his entire body would shake with fear as I would rub him down and speak softly in his ears.  As time passed, he no longer would shake, although he still preferred to perch on top of my body.  He knew he was safe and that the storm would soon pass.  During my time as Rollo's mother, I’ve been known to leave the office or a meeting to rescue his nerves from an unexpected thunderstorm.  Isn’t that what a parent is to do for a child?  Well, he was my child and I never wanted him to be afraid, certainly not afraid and alone.
Two days after he left me, early Monday morning, I was awakened around one o’clock in the morning by a big clap of thunder.  Instinctively I jumped from my bed and immediately went searching for Rollo.  I would soon remember he was no longer with us, I then sat on the sofa and cried.  And I kept crying, missing my little man, my gentleman corgi .  And then I was reminded that people like me do believe there is a special place for our beloved dogs, something like Dog Heaven, and that’s where Rollo is.  Surely now his sweet soul no longer has to endure thunderstorms or insulin shots.  And maybe he now has sight and can see everything before him.  Oh I hope so – it is what I chose to believe.
I kept Rollo’s collar.  It was a special collar that I purchased just for him to honor his sweet soul.  It has a small brass tag on it that reads: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”  That was surely my Rollo.
This special needs puppy certainly changed my life.  I will forever miss him and always feel very privileged that he blessed my home with his unconditional love for all who entered.
Farewell Rollo.  We’ll be together again when we meet to cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Story by Stacy Sells

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