Charles Finds Love in an Unexpected Place

January 26, 2022

Over five years ago, Bob A., a longtime animal lover, became an ASPCA National Field Response volunteer and deployed on his first ever case in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. This particular case involved farm animal cruelty, and while he knew nothing about farm animals, Bob knew he wanted to help.

“I was so impressed with the shelter and how the ASPCA operated that I kept going back,” Bob tells us. “Responding is a lot of hard work but also a lot of fun! I will never forget trying to move six piglets while an adult pig tracked me. Everyone roared as this city boy learned a totally new respect for farmers and for the hard work they do.”

Once the case ended, Bob went on to take as many dog-related ASPCA online courses he could to prepare him to go on future deployments.

After finishing the courses and volunteering on a few other deployments, Bob found himself in Columbus, Ohio at our Cruetly Recovery Center (CRC) helping us care for a group of neglected dogs rescued from a home in Shadyside, Ohio.

During this deployment, Bob was assigned a group of dogs to care for, but one blind senior dog named Charles, particularly tugged on his heartstrings.

“He was in a back kennel and was so patient to get his food and required special attention due to the loss of his eyes,” Bob recalls. “The more I cared for him, the more I got to know how gentle he is despite what must have been a horrific life.” 

Bob and his husband were no strangers to adopting dogs as they were already the pet parents to an eight-year-old Australian Shephard-mix, Nikki, and a five-year-old Wirehaired Griffon-mix, McCay. The couple had been considering adopting a large dog in the future, but knowing that Charles, a blind senior dog with very few teeth, was a hard sell in terms of adoption, they decided to completely change their timeline and expectations and adopted sweet Charles.

A New Experience for All

“I anticipated and hoped that Charles and McCay had very similar characteristics and would make great friends,” Bob tells us. “As it turned out, I was right! McCay is a best friend and has taken on the role of guide dog for Charles, allowing him to bump into her innumerable times on walks as his guidance on the path forward.”

Despite having adopted dogs before, adopting Charles was a whole new ball game for the family. Being both blind and coming from an overcrowded and stressful situation, Charles’ background and special needs were things that were entirely new for the couple.

“Before we picked him up, we did some online research about blind dogs to get a better idea of what to expect and some potential aides,” Bob says. “What we discovered was that Charles was very adept at walking around bumping into the furniture and walls until he got the lay of the land and had left enough scent on things to know his way around.”

This was how Charles adjusted to his new home, bumping around on his own until he learned the lay of the land. His pet parents always remained nearby to lend a hand as Charles settled in. But, after two months of figuring out his new digs, Charles has established where everything is. And when it comes to walking outside of their home, Bob uses a leash for Charles, especially when passing the pool. The leash even helps to calm Charles down.

Charles’ blindness wasn’t the only challenge they faced. Given Charles’ past, it is likely he’d never been in a “real” home or even learned what it meant to be a pet. Bob and his husband had to treat Charles like a puppy, which included house breaking. Luckily, Charles had his two siblings to help guide him and there have been very few accidents in the home.

Appreciating the Joys

Now, having spent a few months getting to know their new furry family member, Bob finds there are only a few adjustments they have to make for Charles.

“We have to be a bit more consistent in closing doors and it takes some more time to let the dogs out in the yard because Charles needs to be guided with sounds of us gently slapping our thighs,” Bob tells us.

They have also learned to use verbal clues or scents to let Charles know they are near, like wearing flip-flops around the house—not only does this help Charles know where they are but helps to guide him when walking, too. Charles has even learned the command, “careful,” which warns him before he bumps into something. He doesn’t crash into things nearly as often and using this command has helped to build trust among Charles and his pet parents.

But these minor adjustments could never compare to the joys Bob and his husband get to experience with Charles as their dog. 

“It is such a joy to see him grow as a dog and a family member,” Bob says. “Seeing the confidence he has in himself as we go for walks around the block, we have sidewalks with grass on either side and it acts like a chute for him where he can confidently walk with his head up and tail held high and sometimes even trots along, trusting the sidewalk and guidance from McCay and us.”

But it doesn’t end there, Bob loves seeing Charles wag his tail when he recognizes their voices and scents, or sticking his head into the wind on walks and sniffing the air, enjoying the wind from an open car window, eating ice cream in the back of the car and enjoying being part of the family.