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How to Find Meaning and Purpose during a Pandemic in a Most Unexpected Way

Stevie has the personality, the looks, the anatomy, the architecture to be, without question, a winning performer. She has the right stuff, that special something that judges recognize and award.

But in late May 2021 she started bumping into furniture. Something was wrong. Stevie was blind.

Stevie is a Golden Retriever (see family photo).

She was headed to the Westminster pinnacle until the unthinkable was confirmed by veterinary specialists. The specific details are cloudy, but after extensive consultations it appeared that she inhaled a fungus endemic in the upper Midwest called blastomycosis. The spores affected her vision, specifically the retina, which is like the film in the back of the camera that became detached, and she became sightless over about 48 hours.

My wife and I have been well known in the pet community and became aware of a highly credentialed breeder of Goldens. We have had Brinkley, our three-legged therapy Golden who brought such joy and comfort to those he visited in hospitals and care centers. McKenna, another Golden, is 80 pounds of slobbery love who allows us to live with her.

We are just simply suckers for puppy love.

So when the breeder connected with us about this two-year-old Golden Retriever female who had the face and personality everyone could love, who had lost her sight, we perked up our ears (sorry for the canine comparison).

The breeder shared with us that because of ongoing professional commitments and travel she could not devote the time and the energy that the little Princess required. At our first sight of Stevie, we fell in love once again. In just minutes in our front yard just a few weeks ago, as this magnificent creature bounded out of the breeder’s car, the bond was created, the alchemy was cemented, and Stevie was welcomed into our home.

Yes, we need to keep her on a leash outside so she doesn’t catch the scent of a rabbit and run into a tree or wall. Yes, we can’t move the furniture now because she has created her own internal GPS to navigate. McKenna has become her personal guide dog, and the two of them on leashes are forces of nature.

But here’s what we did not expect.

There has been an unbelievable outpouring of love and affection for the new dog on the block during a time when we all could use a happy distraction. As we walk her in the early morning hours and in the evening, neighbors stop their cars, roll down their windows, hail us from their yards, stop their motorcycles in the middle of the street, and ask how she is doing. And those who know her story will get on the ground and just hug Stevie—because who can resist a snuggle from a sweet soft bundle of incredible joy.

Recently we attended a funeral in Wisconsin. The hotels were at a premium, but we did find excellent accommodations in a small resort area at a mom-and-pop roadside motel where members of construction and utility crews were housed along with serious fishermen. The parking lot was filled with monster trucks, bass boats the size of Bolivia and motors that cost more than our car, and us.

We brought Stevie so we could administer her daily eye medications. We were housed in a ground-floor room surrounded by these rough-and-tumble workers and outdoorsmen. They acknowledged the beauty and grace of our Princess, but when we shared with them that she was blind, that she was disabled, everything changed.

Everyone wanted to know how it all happened, what it is like to live with a blind dog, and will she ever have her sight returned. Funny, isn’t it, that despite the chaos in the world, beyond the masks and a pandemic that has affected us all, a sightless canine helps us look into our souls with a message we need to hear about love and compassion.

Yes, the world is upside down; we all search for connection again; life has always been uncertain, but for a brief moment in time we can put away our political differences, our prejudices, our biases and divisiveness and look into the loving eyes of the little Princess.

Stevie’s message to us is this: Be kind, be safe, and do not to forget to take care of each other.

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