Friday nights, in the fall, for a small town consist of football, family, bonfires, and making new friends. There are pre-game tailgates and post game gatherings hosted by churches called The 5th quarter. Players and their fans gather together to be-moan a loss or celebrate a win. Everyone shows up, unloads their lawn chairs and sit around a warm fire to drop hotdogs in ash and relive the highlights of the game.
On such a Friday night, Ollie arrived. His brother played on the offensive line and recreated a few scenes from Blind Side that night. Ollie was accompanied by his mom, brothers, and grandma.
The family stepped out of the vehicle and opened the back door. The boys went to flirt with girls while Ollie, on a leash, stayed by mom. His tail wagged. His entire backside was swinging so his feet seemed to lift off the ground.
The easygoing blue-tick hound came stepping out of the backseat. All legs.
He was your quintessential blue-tick. White, with salt-and-pepper ticking. Velvet black ears long enough to qualify as safety hazards. A nose the size of a regulation tennis ball.
A collar around his neck was labeled, BLIND DOG.
“Ollie can’t see. He has no eyes,” they explained.
Ollie’s face is beautiful. Classic hound. Except there are no twinkling brown eyes looking at you. They were surgically removed because of congenital glaucoma.
This is why he walks with a unique gait almost like a foxtrot in slow motion. He lifts his front paws carefully. Gingerly. Every move he makes is with extreme care. He uses his nose to guide himself.
I could see him taking in his surroundings, using only his sense of smell. Muzzle aimed upward in the air. Testing each scent in the wind.
“His nose is how he explores and navigates his surroundings,” said his mother and rescuer. “He can go anywhere and build a relationship with anyone with his nose.”
I squatted low. I called his name in a high-pitched voice.
Ollie followed the sound of my voice. Then he barreled into me lovingly. Head to my chest. And he smelled me, just to get a better sense of who I was.
When he determined I was okay, Ollie plopped onto the pavement to let me conduct a thorough massage of his tummy region.
A few years ago, Ollie was adopted from an animal shelter. He was 11 weeks old, and in bad shape. He had a lot of problems.
Eventually, his sight began to fail. The surgeon tried to save his eyes to no avail. They removed Ollie’s eyes, then sewed his eyelids shut.
“It was pitiful,” said Mom. “I remember hearing him cry in his kennel when he was recovering from surgery. His little puppy voice just howled. He didn’t understand why he had stitches in his eyes.”
Today, two red eyebrows hover on a midnight face, just above his two ocular scars. It gives his face the look of a hound who is perpetually sleeping.
I petted him, and Ollie shed his silken coat all over me. I wore his hair with pride. And when he pressed his cold nose against me to “know” me better, I was honored that he would care enough about me to want to know me at all.
He ran his nose along my feet, up my thigh, around my midsection, upon my hands, my arms, and my neck.
I sat cross-legged on the pavement as he rested his nine-pound head on my shoulder. We were soon entangled in what could only be called a hug.
And I found myself wishing I could be half the person Ollie is. I needed that hug. I needed to be known the way Ollie was getting to know me.
A friend paused to look at Ollie. It took the her a moment to realize that Ollie was blind. The woman seemed surprised by this.
She came in for a closer look.
“This dog has no eyes,” the she remarked.
“He doesn’t need eyes,” Ollie’s mother said. “He sees with his heart.”