Love is blind: Teacher of sightless students adopts blind dog

pramati@macon.comJanuary 1, 2013 

Kim Smith spends her days teaching students at the Georgia Academy for the Blind.

After Smith, a lifelong dog owner, heard about a blind dog named Biscuit needing a home, she inquired about adopting the basenji mix, especially since she owned a basenji when she was a child.

Smith and her husband, Chad, call her “Bizz Bizz” or “Bizzy,” for short.

“I guess (my training to work with the blind) helps me understand the things you need to be aware of,” Kim Smith said. “She’s not aware of dropoffs or stairs. It’s just like (my students) learn to compensate after a sight loss. She seems to be coping. She had sight once, and her memories are helpful.”

When Biscuit lived with her original family, Smith said, she was struck by a car. That accident caused a freak injury which made the dog’s eyes bulge, blinding her.

Annette Sheely, dog adoption coordinator with Macon Purrs N Paws, said the rescue group took in Biscuit after the accident in late October and paid for her surgery in mid-November through donations from people in the community. Because of the severity of her injuries, the vet had no choice but to remove Biscuit’s eyes.

Sheely, who is legally blind herself, took Biscuit in as one of her fosters until she could find a suitable home.

“She was only supposed to be here three days,” Sheely said with a laugh Monday. She ended up keeping Biscuit about six weeks.

“We were asking for a non-chaotic, quiet home, and my house is the last place for those things,” Sheely said.

While there -- and still adjusting to the loss of her sight -- Biscuit managed to bond with the other dogs at Sheely’s residence.

“She amazed me every day,” Sheely said. “This was all new to her, and she taught herself.”

Sheely said Biscuit at first walked in circles in her hallway to get used to her surroundings. Once she got bored, Biscuit went on to explore other parts of the house. Biscuit quickly picked up the word “careful” whenever she got too close to bumping into something or going near stairs, Sheely said.

Biscuit had been a featured animal in the Homeless Pets Club, involving local businesses spotlighting dogs and cats in need of homes. Biscuit was one of the animals sponsored by The Telegraph in that effort. This past Saturday, Biscuit also was featured in a Telegraph column by AC Pup, a mascot for animal advocacy group Central Georgia CARES.

The Smiths finalized their adoption of Biscuit on Sunday.

When it came time to turn Biscuit over to the Smiths, Sheely said she felt like “a proud mom.”

“I’m so happy she got the home she did,” Sheely said. “She’s going to continue to flourish.”

Smith noted that much like humans who lose their sight, Biscuit compensates by using her senses of smell and hearing. Sheely said Smith’s training with the blind will be especially advantageous to Biscuit.

“Obviously, a dog is different than a person, but because of (Smith’s) knowledge, there are things she’ll instinctively know,” Sheely said. “It’s her instinct to tap things to alert Biscuit (that something is in her path).”

Even though she’s only been in the Smith house on Lake Wildwood for a few days, Biscuit already has fit right in with the family’s other two dogs, Harley and Wiley. The dogs, who are brothers from the same litter, also have to adjust to Biscuit. Smith said Harley, the bigger of the two, has taken a protective role while Wiley is a little more jealous.

“I thought (Biscuit would) be closer to the smaller dog, but the bigger dog has taken the role of protector,” Smith said.

Smith said she treats Biscuit as if she were a puppy. She doesn’t leave her alone outside yet, and she’s still working to make sure she’s housebroken in her new environment.

She hopes to one day introduce Biscuit to her students.

“The kids love to interact with animals,” Smith said. “I would think they’d think it’s neat to see a dog with a visual impairment.”

Sheely said she’s glad Biscuit’s story has a happy ending.

“A lot of the right people came into Biscuit’s life at the right time,” she said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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