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A Blind Man's Kerry

 

From the December 1991 issue of Kerry Klips

The other day a friend and I were discussing the merits of our favored breed, the Kerry Blue Terrier, neither of us having the least prejudice in our admiration of their attributes. In recounting some of our many years of loving and living with Kerries and praising their intellect and overall soundness and laughing at some pretty amusing antics, the subject of swimming Kerries came up.

"Oh yes, we had one like that," I recalled. "One summer when the kids were small and had a group over for an afternoon swim, our son came in the house with a plea for help. His exact words were, 'Mom, will you please bring Sassy in the house. She keeps hogging going down the slide and then splashes all over the pool. Please, it's our turn to use the slide and swim now.'"

Then I asked if my friend had ever heard the story of Ch. Calkerry's Ben B and the blind Irishman? I had met the elderly Irish gentleman while working as campaign manager on Jim Otto's run for city council (Jim was then the renown center for the Oakland Raiders and is now ensconced in the Football Hall of Fame). In politics there are always picture sessions, and to make it interesting (you know the old story of kissing babies and dogs) had brought along my Kerry, Ch. Hiland's Baron of Sassy. It wasn't Jim who was enamored with Baron, but the blind Irishman who was the local political machine boss. Stroking his hand over Baron's fur he exclaimed, "My God, it's a Kerry Blue. Used to breed them when I was a boy in County Kerry. I'd be givin' anything to be havin' one again."

As luck would have it, some months later, I came into temporary possession of Ch. Calkerry's Ben B. Ben was about eight years old then, had done some top winning (and was the sire of the acclaimed Ch. Doon-A-Ree's Roadrunner), but unfortunately desperately needed a new home. With a male already fully established in residence, a couple of bitches and a new litter of puppies, I could only briefly board him. Hard as I tried, there were just no takers for a dog that old, even if he was a champion. In desperation I thought of the Irishman. Naw . . . Ben would never be able to adjust with a blind man . . . and therein lies a most beautiful story.

It's beyond belief how Ben sensed so much about his new master-to-be. At their first meeting, this mature (absolutely non-obedience-trained) dog went straight to him, sat down, and laid his head atop the man's legs. The Irishman, in the delightful lilt that was still a trademark, whispered to and petted Ben. It was love at first sight and feel. "Now, my fine Kerry boy, we've got to be learnin' not to be tripin' over each other. Shall we be givin' it a try?" And he removed Ben's leash and began walking through the house. The dog? He of course instantly moved correctly by his master's left side, stopping when the man paused, never bumping into, bolting, or darting in front, just attentive to the blind man's every move. Anyone who had ever known or seen Ben shown, fully appreciates that this was one tough Kerry competitor, but a different gentle side of his nature was surely apparent with the Irishman.

There was a slight altercation several weeks later, though. The Irishman had a group of political friends over to the house, and one gentleman, in the heat of discussion, suddenly rose and pointed a finger toward Ben's master. Without a warning, Ben had the man's arm between his teeth. But just one word from the Irishman and Ben resumed his position by his master's feet. No skin was broken, but no one ever again raised his voice or made any threatening gestures toward Ben's Irish master.

Ben and the Irishman went everywhere together: political rallies, restaurants, shopping, they were always side by side. By no stretch of the imagination could Ben be considered a guide dog-he was still an all-romping male Kerry-but companion par excellent he surely was. The Irishman, having a fenced yard, did not have to exercise Ben, but occasionally they did take short walks around the block . . . which led to another incident.

Unbeknown to the Irishman, some sidewalk repair was being done, and since Ben was not a trained guide dog, he could not warn his master of the danger in the pavement. Tripping over a gaping hole, the Irishman fell and broke his ankle. Ben did the only thing he knew: he howled and barked, and positioned himself on his master's chest until help came. When the paramedics arrived, Ben would not allow them to remove his injured master until it was agreed that he could ride in the ambulance too. Ben stayed under the hospital bed until the cast was set, walking sedately beside the wheelchair-as super guard dog!

Ben and the Irishman lived together for another seven years. They both passed away within days of each other, but there is no doubt they had made arrangements for their next meeting.

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