How a Rescued, Blind Dog Saved His Owner from Anxiety Attacks
Blind and starving, Toody was found wandering the freezing streets of Newark New Jersey in December 2011. Although the shelter that found him gave him basic care, they also scheduled him for euthanasia because, as a blind dog, he was considered unadoptable. Fortunately, Toody was given a second chance from the rescue organization CARE NJ – a chance that would lead to the perfect forever home just one month later.
“Six months before I adopted Toody, I lost my previous dog, Plato, after someone in the neighborhood poisoned him,” says his owner, Maria Perez. “It was such a traumatic loss that I thought I would never be able to get another dog, but as the days went by, I found myself looking [for a new dog] more and more often.”
After six months of searching, Perez stumbled on a picture of Toody. “He was being fostered by someone in my own town, so I made the call and went to see him, and it was love at first sight,” Perez says.
Bringing Toody Home
Toody was about four years old when Perez met him in January 2012, and she remembers thinking he was very skinny and looked so tiny and helpless.
“He had this grace about him, though, the way he stood, it made you want to put a cape on him and call him Superdog,” says Perez. “And when I met him for the first time, he put his head on my shoulder and just hugged me; there was no way I was saying no to him then!”
Although Toody is completely blind, he didn’t have any other medical issues.
“I’d never had a blind dog before so I wasn’t sure what it would entail,” says Perez. “But once I met him and decided we were meant for each other, I accepted that whatever happens happens and I would just have to deal with it.”
As it turned out, Toody’s loss of eyesight doesn’t really affect his life that much.
“He was shy for about one day and then he took his place as king of the house,” says Perez. Toody goes out for walks, gets around without any help and even plays chase and fetch. “I just have to make sure not to move the furniture around, but other than that, he’s pretty fearless,” she says.
Toody’s biggest challenge is that he is wary of people, although it’s hard to know whether that’s due to his blindness or whatever happened to him before he was rescued.
“We have no idea what he went through, so I try to be understanding,” says Perez. “He can be aggressive with other people, so I just try to keep him away by taking him on walks when not a lot of people are at the park, or by keeping him in the car until the vet or groomer is ready to take him; he doesn’t seem to mind other dogs, just people.”
Helping His Owner Manage Her Anxiety
Two years ago, Perez was diagnosed with anxiety.
“I feel it mostly at night, when it’s dark and it’s just Toody and me in the house,” says Perez. “One day, about two years ago, I had the worst bout of anxiety I’ve ever had.”
At the time, Toody did not sleep in bed with Perez (he had his own bed on the floor next to her), but the anxiety was so bad that Perez couldn’t calm down or fall asleep, so she decided to put Toody on the bed with her.
“He gave me a kiss and curled up right by my belly,” says Perez. “I told myself it would only be for one night, but I was able to sleep so soundly that I decided to try it again the following night and the same thing happened. Two years later, I sleep better and he takes up three quarters of the bed.”
It helps that Toody loves to curl up on Perez’s lap or sit on her chest and give her kisses during the day, too.
“He is very much into being babied, and that helps too because I have something to focus on other than my fears,” she says. “It takes me out of my brain for a while. If you’ve ever had anxiety, I’m sure you know what I mean, sometimes our brains can be our own worst enemy, constantly overthinking.”
Today, Toody loves to eat, sleep and hang out on the couch with Perez when he’s not comforting her.
“He has a couple of dog toys he likes to play with most—his bouncy ball and his Lambchop—but other than that, it’s pretty much just lazing about,” she says. “He definitely owns me and not the other way around.”
Images via: Maria Perez
Diana Bocco is a full-time writer and adventurer, whose work has been published in DiscoveryChannel.com, Yahoo!, & Popular Mechanics.