It is with a heavy heart I let you know of Jackson’s passing at only seven years old. Jackson came into rescue as a puppy from merle to merle breeding therefore he was blind. Gloria taught him to be a therapy dog and he gave his life to helping others, adults at the senior living and reading with children at school. There have been many newspaper articles about Jackson and his good works along with a spot in the Purina Commercial. He also wrote a book “What A Blind Dog Sees” to help others understand what it means from a dogs prespective to be blind. We have lost a wonderful ambassador for the collies in rescue however he did make a difference for so many other collies. Below is a note from Gloria and Jack and please keep them in your prayers. Jean
Our sweet boy Jackson crossed the bridge last evening at 5 pm wrapped in his parents loving arms. Jackson had been deteriorating neurologically for some time but the process had greatly accelerated over the last 2 weeks with this past weekend being horrific. It was brain related and without putting him through a barrage of testing the exact cause unknown, however the end result would have been no different. He was miserable all weekend, even with sedation, having balance and mobility issues, and we admit that for more than a week he probably didn’t know who he was or where he was. We denied this for a long time, making excuses etc., but things finally progressed to a point where we couldn’t look the other way any longer. Jackson was so very special, bringing happiness to all that he met and will be missed so much by many other than just his parents and fur brothers. He leaves quite a legacy and big shoes to fill. Thanks to everyone for their love and support and especially Collie Rescue who brought this wonderful, sweet boy into our lives. Love,
Gloria, Jack, Devin, Siberius, and Woodrow
by J. Bradfield McConnell
In 2006 my wife, Gloria, came home from Collie Rescue of the Carolinas and told me about a blind collie named Jackson and how unaffected and normal the dog was. It was clear to me she wanted to adopt him. I had seen pictures of the dog and I had to agree that Jackson, a rough collie with a white coat highlighted by sable markings, was a very beautiful dog.
Even so, I had concerns. Could he defend himself in our pack? The fact that Jackson is blind due to over breeding, I wondered if he might be sickly. What’s more, neither Gloria nor I had any previous experience with a blind dog. What sort of special problems might there be?
Nevertheless, I decided to be a good sport and meet the dog before I said ‘no’, as I expected to do. In no time I saw exactly what Gloria had seen. Watching Jackson run and play with other dogs in a familiar environment made it impossible for me to believe he was entirely blind and I said what everyone says, insisting Jackson could see something. He seemed too well adjusted to be entirely blind.
Of course, when we brought him to our home and a strange environment it was clear Jackson couldn’t see a thing. Even so, brimming with confidence and a strong sense of self, he challenged for supremacy in our pack at once and it took Jefferson, our alpha, several weeks to regain control. As for my concerns about him defending himself among our pack, Jackson has a short fuse and fighting was a habit we had to break him of. Even now, around strange dogs, we have to keep a close watch.
There are many Jackson stories to tell and I might have written a much longer book about our experiences with ‘Elvis’, our most common nickname for Jackson. The problem was I spent more time blowing my nose and wiping tears from my eyes than writing. So I chose the less taxing medium of a biographical poem, written for children, to tell Jackson’s inspiring story.
It is said ‘if it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense’. Jackson is a double blue merle collie and the product of an irresponsible breeder who was willing to produce many blind and/or deaf collies to cash in on pups born intact. While his is a happy story, Jackson is the exception rather than the rule.
Through our association with Collie Rescue of the Carolinas, we have seen a continuum of blind and deaf collies pass through the program that could and may be Jackson’s cousins or descendants. In fact, at the 2012 Westminster
Kennel Club Dog Show, the champion collie was sired by a blind double blue merle. Sadly, this does nothing to encourage responsible breeding free of ‘throw away’ dogs and, sadder still, collie breeders hardly have a monopoly on blind and deaf dogs due to inbreeding.
Jackson has the instincts of a show dog and, when he has an audience, ‘Elvis is back in the hotel’. He knows when Gloria is preparing to take him to Countryside Manor, an elder care facility he visits as one of our two certified therapy dogs, and he bristles with anticipation like an athlete before a match or game.
His showmanship coupled with his infirmity inspires strong emotions, but he will not allow sadness over his blindness to last for long. A Johnson & Johnson YouTube video featuring Jackson as a therapy dog demonstrates how his love of being touched, his welcoming nature and the smile he seems to wear make him an ambassador of love.
We have learned a great deal from Jackson but, perhaps, the most precious lesson is what his presence has taught us about our other dogs. On very windy days he can become disoriented in our yard. Invariably, a dog will ‘woof’ or interact with Jackson to help him regain his bearings. Just a few weeks ago Woodrow, our youngest and a husky,
jumped over Jackson’s back to shoulder him away from a post on our deck he was running toward. These are but examples of how the whole pack helps Jackson succeed.
Lastly, it should be said that having a blind dog is a wonderful experience but, for any who may be moved to adopt one, I offer two pieces of advice. First, to have a normal life, Jackson needs to live with other dogs. Secondly, and perhaps the greatest challenge, an owner must not overprotect a blind dog. So be
prepared to let your blind dog run around and just be a dog.
The book, What a Blind Dog Sees, may be purchased through Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle. To
learn more go to: BlindDogHeavyIndustries.com.