"Oh wow. I guess I thought he would just be sitting there, doing nothing, a lot of the time." This is how many people perceive what a blind and deaf dog's day must be like. Sitting alone in their darkness, nothing to see, nothing to hear, nothing to do, just waiting for me to move them around or feed them. Otherwise, just sitting there. Is it any wonder if people have this perception that they question what quality of life my dogs can have?
However, a perception of how things are is not necessarily the reality of how it actually is. Looking out over a calm pond, our perception is one of stillness and quiet. But what is going on underneath the surface? Are there fish, toads and turtles swimming and playing and eating? Are they communicating with each other in their own language that we do not notice? There is a lot going on in pond culture under the surface of what we see - our perception. Each being has its own reality of a situation based on its own perception. The fish will perceive the pond culture in a different reality than the toad, than the turtle, than a human.
If we only look at the surface, we see a very limited view of what the reality may be. When we can look below the surface and open our minds to what another's perception may be, a whole new world of possibilities is opened up to us.
Below the surface of a dog just sitting alone in darkness and silence, what is lurking for us to discover? In experiencing life from my blind and deaf dogs' perspectives, I know their lives are rich with movement and information at every moment. It fascinates me - the world they live in, as I can only imagine it. I'm sure my imagination does not do it justice.
An air current to me may feel like a draft or a welcome breeze, or even an irritant if it blows my papers to the floor. An air current to my dogs carries a wealth of information. Someone may have passed by and in a certain direction and at a certain speed. A door or window opened somewhere in the house and may signal someone arriving or leaving. The air conditioner or fan may have come on or turned off. Someone may be calling to wake them up or get their attention.
Changes in air pressure and how the air moves may signal a piece of furniture or a tree is near and they should slow down or curve away. And along with these changes in air current or pressure, also come a multitude of smells. Each thing that we notice with our eyes must have a different smell to a dog. Think of how many items they come in contact with in a day. And smells traveling on the air, inside and outside - quite a buffet to behold! Each being in the home has its own distinct smell. I believe there are unique smells to different emotions and moods as well. So many things they may not be able to see with their eyes, but their nose knows!
A vibration to me may mean a large truck is going by outside. But think about every noise you hear in a day - some we learn to tune out because they don't concern us, some we have come to learn are very important to us. What do the noises you hear every day signal to you?
Each of those noises has a vibration - that is how we hear it and recognize it. Dogs can notice those vibrations too, even if they can't hear them in the same sense as most of us can. They most certainly learn to tune out the many that don't have significance to them. Very quickly, however, they learn the ones that do have significance in their daily lives! (This is what often causes us to second guess whether a dog that we know is deaf just heard that noise it appeared to respond to! It was responding to the vibration it has learned is significant.)
Have you ever played the party game where you had to stick your hand into a small hole in a box and figure out what item was inside just by touching it? It's often harder than it appears to be, because we do rely so much on our sight in our daily lives that we are not consciously aware of how each item feels that we interact with. Blind and deaf dogs rely a lot on their sense of touch. Not just for when they touch us or we touch them, but in everything they do.
It's possible for them to easily map out environments that they use every day. Even outside, in a yard that appears to us to just be grass, the dogs can tell where in the yard they are. They map out little dips in the yard, or small slopes, and various smells so they know exactly where they are. They use surface changes such as mulch, dirt, gravel, brick, and grass, to create their map. They enjoy the softness of a dog bed or blanket, or the cool firmness of a tile floor. They know which piece of furniture they are brushing past.
And these things just brush the surface of what our dogs are aware of. There is so much to discover beneath the surface of our perception.
It's easy to form our own judgments about others or about circumstances based on our own perception. That's normal. It's how we interact with our world. It takes a bit more effort to open our minds to learning about someone else's perception. But imagine the possibilities of what you can learn?
Our perception of what a blind and deaf dog might experience may lead us to put limits on what they can and will accomplish. If we think they will just sit there, how much of a chance will we give them to do otherwise? Don't let your perception of another create limits in your thinking - or in their potential.