People are always quick to label Beamer a SPECIAL NEEDS dog. It’s what I first thought of him when I met him back in the Spring of 2011. And it’s what most passersby at adoption events seemed to think. I typically got two responses from people when they met Beamer for the first time. A lot of feeling sorry for Beamer and “bless your hearts” for fostering him. And a whole lot of squinting eyes and wrinkly foreheads looking at me in disbelief when I would explain how easily he gets around. “Don’t feel sorry for him. He is my running partner for crying out loud!”
It is no surprise then, that while at the adoption event where we picked him up, we ran into that pesky label again. I saw a group of kids petting Beamer, only to be persuaded away by parents who said “Oh no, but he is a SPECIAL NEEDS dog.” That was our typical experience with potential adopters. They were always quick to write Beamer off as something they couldn’t handle or cope with. This time around at the adoption event though, I didn’t mind the label too much since Beamer was MINE – and Ryan’s too, of course.
But seriously, this is a theme in Beamer’s life and a myth that I would very much like to dispel. SPECIAL NEEDS is a term that we quickly equate with a disability or something that gets in the way of living a ‘normal life.’ No doubt that losing his eyes to glaucoma several years ago was life-altering for the Beams, but there is very little about his life that is not normal.
Beamer may not have any eyes, but his nose sure works well. For instance, he is always the first to find food – and not just the crumbs that fall on the floor. If we leave food on the counter, he will pass up the veggie tray and go straight to snatching the yummy-smelling meaty snacks first. He is also the king of comfort, always managing to feel out the coziest spot to snuggle into. Seriously, Ryan and I often find ourselves sitting on the floor because Beamer is taking up too much of the couch. Not to mention, there is no evading him! There is no slipping out of the house unnoticed, and he regularly “checks up” on you when you step into another room.
Full disclosure, I have seen him get disoriented a couple of times. Once, when the fire alarms went off in the building and let out a loud ear-piercing sound that had both humans and canines scrambling to figure out what to do and where to go. Another time, he heard me shriek out loud when I burned myself (no connection to the fire alarms, I promise) and he became a little frantic, bumping into things as he tried to find me. And occasionally, he will wake up from a nap and get a little “lost” looking for the water bowl. Ryan thinks he probably forgets where he fell asleep; but Beamer is always able to quench his thirst within minutes.
On the flipside, Beamer is a better running partner and adventure buddy than any of my former foster dogs. I may be a little biased, but who doesn’t love a fearless partner-in-crime? He will climb the highest peaks, go bounding across open fields, and march confidently in the face of frightening city sounds. Not to mention, I can trust him with anyone. He loves dogs, children, and all sorts of adults. You can hug him, pet him, or even flip him up on your shoulders (Ryan…) and Beamer will wait patiently with his tail wagging until you are done loving on him.
This past weekend was a great example of Beamer’s more-than-normal lifestyle. Ryan and I went to a family get together and we brought Beamer and Lucy along. We spent the day with nearly a dozen people that neither dog had ever met, eating lots of delicious-smelling (and tasting) foods. There were a ton of new smells, sounds and surfaces inside this seemingly endless two-story house.
Lucy has perfect vision and yet, very true to her nature, she took quite some time to warm up to the new environment. Beamer on the other hand was quick to identify key individuals – like treat-dispensing Grandma – and was the only one to stake his claim on the cozy couch! He even parked it in the kitchen while Ryan’s mom made pancakes the next morning (right on her feet, I might add).
So, as Beamer points out, SPECIAL NEEDS in dogs can really be very relative. Beamer may be eyeless but he enjoys life as much as the next pup! It’s all about how you adjust and what you make of what you’ve got. And to be quite honest, I think it’s probably a good thing that Beamer doesn’t have eyes anymore. This way he doesn’t get to see the squinting eyes and wrinkly foreheads people flash our way lest he start to second-guess his happy-go-lucky ways.