Recently, my dog, Coconut, lost his vision. It happened suddenly and I was terribly upset and worried about how we could adjust and worried how he would adapt. About a week or so later, a client reached out to me to get a memorial portrait done of her family's dog, Jabar. Mikaela went on to share how Jabar had lost his vision many years back and generously shared all about their experience. It truly comforted me. As I am finding out with Coconut, it seems dogs always have lessons to teach us. They are so adaptable, they offer us a great example of how to make lemonade out of lemons. I was also reminded of why I wanted to start the Pet Story Project, our pets bring us together and it is helpful to talk to other people who have shared an experience like this. Hearing Jabar's story gave me the confidence that Coconut would adapt and we would both be ok. I thoroughly enjoyed painting Jabar and meeting Mikaela and her family. Even after his passing, Jabar, the Border Collie was indeed still herding - still bringing people together :) I hope this painting conveys his special spirit and makes you smile too.
"Jabar could never miss a chance to play fetch. It was probably his favorite thing to do if not being pampered with tummy rubs. He would let you know he enjoyed being petted by making these funny snorting sounds like a pig oinking in contentment. But as soon as he heard the word “ball”, his ears would perk instantly, and he would hustle to sniff out his favorite toy. He had to rely more on his sense of smell and hearing because Jabar was completely blind. Even then, his other senses were so attuned he could trick anyone that he was staring right back at them if they didn’t realize he was blind.
Jabar, or Bar for short, had lost his vision gradually around three years old due to an unfortunate genetic trait. He was a purebred Border Collie with a beautiful tri-color coat of black, white, and touches of light brown. His hair was fluffier in texture than silky. He also had a large and bulky build which with his coat features made many strangers think he was a mixed breed. But without question, he had all the obsessive herding instincts of a true Border Collie. He’d sniff around the house to check on everyone in the family. He would also try his best to give a proper stare-down to convince us to move from our separate rooms to the family den. If his stare wasn’t noticed, he’d give a polite “wuff” like he was clearing his throat to let us know we were taking too long to gather. And then, once everyone was together, it was the perfect chance to have us play his version of fetch.
Bar would put his favorite ball right in one of our laps and then run over to the stairs. We were very careful about keeping his surroundings as unchanged as possible from back when he did have full sight, so it was still easy for him to move around the house. He would dash up to the top of the stairs, turn around, and lie down to look back at us on the floor below. Next, he would bark for the person he gave the ball to throw it up to him. The thrower would give Bar a heads-up by counting down or asking him if he was ready. Bar would bark again in anticipation. Then, the ball would be tossed up the steps— right up to his face. His reflexes were so fast that as soon as he felt the ball brush his whiskers, he’d snatch it in his mouth like he’d seen it coming the whole time. After catching the ball, he would release it or nudge it until it could roll back down the stairs to the thrower at the bottom. Hearing that the ball had successfully landed downstairs, Bar would bark for it to be thrown back. And thus, the game of fetch would go on for as long as Bar felt like playing. Which for him, could be hours and hours since he had a herding dog’s level of stamina. If anything, it was more of an exercise for the thrower, especially if one of us couldn’t catch the ball rolling back down and had to chase after it! In this way, we joked that this game was called “reversed fetch”.
Jabar was incredibly intelligent and high-spirited. We were so blessed to have him with his adorable quirks. And we always admired how he never let his loss of vision hinder his enjoyment of living. His condition certainly didn’t stop him from diligently accompanying Mom whenever it was time to get the newspaper and carry it from the mailbox to the front door. Bar truly was an outdoorsy dog. So, rain or shine he would be there and was always the best kind of company to have. Jabar remained highly curious to explore his area and go out for walks. We didn’t even need to guide him sometimes. He just knew the neighborhood sidewalks by heart and would stroll off on his own, leaving us to catch up to him.
And if he didn’t feel like walking, Jabar would love nothing more than to chill out in the yard, laying in the shady areas and feeling the breeze. He enjoyed grazing around for hours and didn’t even mind if it was snowing. Often times he would only come in to eat his food or get a treat and then he would want to go right back out again. He also loved guarding the yard and in our neighborhood, there were plenty of animals to ward off. Many families of geese and deer come to take over our backyard. And Bar would try his hardest to chase them away, but with him being blind he would end up going after them in the wrong direction. It was sad and funny at the same time because the other animals would just stay put and stare at him going in circles trying to find where they were. But, eventually, he would find their scent and track them until they ran off. Jabar went through every day like he had a job to do and he never wavered. We would always reward his hard work of protecting his family and home by giving him a pup cup or a busy bone.
He also had a special understanding of each family member's moods and knew when someone needed his comforting presence. We are so glad he was with us to give solace during difficult times including the Pandemic. His way of showing love was so unique and pure. Sadly, he passed away this past year. He was able to leave this world peacefully in his sleep on May 26, 2022, at the age of twelve years old. We now share these stories in honor of him and his lovely spirit. Thank you, Jabar. Rest well, buddy!"