Articles Index/Norfolk Tales
Posted 08/01/99


We were at Tony Gabrielli's and Wayne Palmer's Cricket Hill Farm the last Sunday in April and spent the afternoon on the warm, sunny deck playing with the puppies, grooming, and enjoying the lush, green countryside in spring. As we looked down the green, sloping field, we remembered the sights and sounds of dogs and people enjoying themselves the lovely summer weekend last July when Tony and Wayne hosted the ANTA match. It was fun meeting lots of people and their Norfolks. At the match, people had read Andrew's article Lesson From a Dog about our blind, Norfolk puppy, Jingle, in the June ANTIC and were curious about her. Tony has told us that the article is on the ANTA web site and has received hits from around the world. Tony urged us to update ANTIC readers who might be interested in Jingle's development since last year.

Jingle is 19 months old now in April, 1999. She is small: height 10", length 19" nose to tail, and weight 9 lbs. She has a pretty red coat, but now that she's stripped, she's blonde with a red stripe down her back. Her eyes look normal, but if examined very closely, show a faint, cloudy ring at the outer edge. Her left ear now stands as attention all the time, but her right ear still folds. This gives her a surprised, yet jaunty, expression. When she was a puppy, she used to remind us of Stevie Wonder, how he would hold his head back and sway with the rhythm as he sang. She did this a lot when she was tiny and her ears would fall back erect in this pose. We think she was using sound and scent to orient herself. She rarely does it now.

Scent is really important to Jingle. From her behavior, she appears to think that if she smells something, it must actually be there. The funniest thing she did was when Wayne and Tony gave Andrew a plastic bag full of sweaters they had outgrown. When we brought it home, Jingle was all over the bag with excitement, barking, pawing, rolling, and burrowing into the pile of sweaters. She then went to every chair, standing up on her hind legs, paws on the chair, sniffing and whimpering, hunting for Wayne and Tony. She didn't give up until she had gone to every chair, in every room downstairs, trying to find them. It was amazing to watch.

Recently her keen sense of smell alerted our family to a broken furnace. Jingle likes to go upstairs in the morning after her breakfast, especially if anyone is still in bed. She is a busybody and has to go check up on everyone, although we think her true motive is that she's ready to hop back in bed if anyone will let her. Jingle can go up a flight of stairs licketty-split, but she can never go down a whole flight of stairs. She can go down one or two steps that she knows very well, like at a doorway or porch. Everyone was getting ready to leave early one morning when we heard Jingle barking urgently from one of the bedrooms upstairs, which was very unusual. Andrew ran up to get her and noticed a strong, electrical burning odor. We didn't smell it in the attic, downstairs, or even in the basement, yet it was coming from the forced-air vents in the floors of the bedrooms. Had it not been for Jingle's barking, we all would have left the house that day, not even noticing that something was wrong with our furnace. As it turned out, a wire had shorted out and burned up, but we were able to turn off the furnace and get it repaired quickly, thanks to Jingle! Tony called her a hero, and said he'd tell Peggoty (her dam) about it.

Her dependence on scent probably made housebreaking Jingle take longer than for a sighted dog. Jingle only liked going outside in her own pen at home. One day last summer, the neighbors had their driveway resurfaced and the asphalt and tar smell was so overwhelming she refused to go. She walked around the pen with her tail between her legs, looking miserable. Usually she did well at home in her own pen, but when traveling was not adaptable. If she smelled other dogs, she wouldn't go there, which was frustrating. By 15 months she matured, along with a deliberate strategy of taking her in the car on errands when it was time for her to go and getting her used to going in different locations. Now she is much better, and we think it was mostly a developmental maturing process.

Jingle loves to go in the car! All she needs is to hear the car keys and she is up, stretched and jumping at the door, ready to go. She even lies on her back to be picked up and have her collar or coat put on, if the weather or rink is especially cold. In the last month, she has become quite vocal in expressing her disappointment if she does not get to come along with us. She enjoys going on errands, to the skating rinks, and to Andrew's grandparents' home, which she knows thoroughly. We've taken her to South Carolina twice. She seemed to remember the beach, the ocean and Andrew's grandparents' vacation home. She ran around the house, only bumping into a couple of things her first day there. She swam in the shallow water and loved being able to run flat out on the beach without fear of bumping into something. Once her seeing-eye family didn't alert her quickly enough and she ran smack into a surf fishing pole, stuck in the sand. Jingle does so well, we sometimes forget! She loved digging in the sand and destroying Andrew's forts and castles. She has been to Lake Placid and Pittsburgh for Andrew's skating competitions and did well staying at hotels, except for some barking at unfamiliar sounds and people. It was in Pittsburgh at Junior Olympics at 1½ years that she learned to jump up onto a bed, something she had not yet done at home.

Andrew baked Jingle a birthday cake for her 1st birthday party. At that age, she learned to jump up and then down off the sofa, which was a big deal for her. Up until that time, the sofa had been a playpen; you could put her there, knowing she would stay. Being able to come and go off the sofa was probably her proudest accomplishment. She loves to sleep touching someone; it makes her feel secure. Now she can always find someone to snuggle up to. A little later, at 15 months, she first jumped down off Andrew's bed.

Jingle likes other dogs, but she cannot compensate for her blindness in her inability to read other dogs' body language. She cannot tell if they are being playful, fearful or aggressive. Other dogs sense she is different, and her behavior can be confusing to them, so we have to be watchful and very protective in situations with unfamiliar dogs. She isn't intimidated by other dogs; she thinks she's as big as they are, and she gets so excited the other dogs are bewildered. She seems to get on best with large, placid, calm dogs a St. Bernard in her clicker class and a Labrador at a store we frequently visit. Tony said that Rosie, Jingle's littermate, took a while to accept her again when visiting, but changed how she played with Jingle, by moving slowly so Jingle could still find her in a game of chase. Little children who are rambunctious frighten her and she will hide under furniture and bark or growl. Jingle likes to be the one doing the investigating, not the one being pursued.
Jingle loves her toys and has a long attention span when playing. She digs to the bottom of her toy box to find just the one she wants. She no longer seems to prefer toys that make a sound. Her favorites are the Gumabones. At about 14 months, she began responding to verbal clues when playing fetch. Instead of "hot" or "cold," we'd use "good" or "no" for the direction she was hunting, and "up" or "down" for the toy's location. A lot of the time she needs no clue and is able to find a tossed toy just by the sound it makes hitting the surface of the floor. It sounds different hitting carpet, tile, wood, or other surface. But the clues help her when it takes her longer, or the toy is farther away. What we find amazing is that she never gives up. We will get involved in doing something else and forget about our game, and 5 minutes later, she'll prance up to us, as proud as can be, with the toy in her mouth, and we are so impressed by her persistence and intelligence.
Jingle seems to recognize and recall people by their voices. We've seen her react to familiar voices on videotape, when the people are not actually even there. She comes to the different skating rinks with us sometimes, and enjoys very much all the attention she receives. We often wondered if she recognized the music, as the same tapes are played again and again at the different rinks. After the Junior Olympics in Pittsburgh, we were in South Carolina on vacation at my parents' vacation home and we played the videotape of the Free Dance event Andrew skated in. Jingle lay sleeping when midway through the event Andrew's and his partner's music began a tango. As the familiar strains of the violin began, Jingle flew out of her bed and ran to the TV, stood on her hind legs, and pawed the TV with her front legs, whining and yelping! Everyone was watching Jingle instead of the tape, so we played it again and Jingle repeated the exact same behavior.
Jingle has taught us a lot, surprisingly, about people. Andrew put it best when he said that Jingle has taught him about people's prejudice to disabilities, or in Jingle's case, her visual impairment. Although Jingle is small and could never be a show dog, she has many nice features. She is a pretty, appealing dog and is greeted with delight and interest wherever we go. Wayne remarked when she was a puppy, "It's kind of like going in public with a rock star, isn't it?", when we told him about being practically mobbed when we took Jingle to Andrew's school. Children adore her small size, because she is like a stuffed animal come to life. What is surprising, even shocking, is how some people, who are attracted to her, even pet and play with her, then react when we say that she is blind. First, they physically withdraw. Their facial expressions alter dramatically and even their tone of voice lowers. They lose interest and appear almost repelled. The questions are always the same: "Why would you ever want a blind dog? How long has she been blind? Did you know she was blind when you got her? How sad." And they walk away, very differently than when they initially approached, almost like we ruined their day. With strangers, you have no clue or prior experience to anticipate how they will react, but with people you do know, their reaction can be the most shocking and revealing of character. Andrew says it makes him so sad when people do that, because he said he realized that rejection is what people with disabilities have to face, encountering prejudice every day.

Fortunately, most people do not react that way. Some people we encounter react with great sadness, "oh, that's so horrible, you poor little dog!" However, they still feel comfortable around her and do not withdraw, but instead show compassion and, perhaps, pity. Other people are interested, ask questions about how she manages to do things and don't seem affected by her blindness. Another surprise for us is the number of people who have experience with blindness in a pet their own, a friend's or relative's. There are a lot of blind pets out there, more than we ever realized.

Like the glass perceived half empty or half full, people project their view onto Jingle. We live with a very full Norfolk. We are grateful to Tony and Wayne for giving her to Andrew. They enjoy hearing about her antics. We see an intelligent, persistent, confident, playful, affectionate, happy companion who has brought a lot of joy into our family. What more could you ask?

Tom, Karen and Andrew McCrary
An abridged version of this article appeared in the June, 1999, ANTIC


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