By Leah Wyllie
When I got the email titled, “Billy Needs a Foster Home” on December 22, my heart leapt out of my chest. I was so ready for this. Reading through the message and discovering he was blind made me nervous.
I had just ushered my three-legged golden mix through her final days, and our family dog was in her second year of blindness due to SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome). Did I have the emotional energy for another special needs dog? Looking at Billy’s sweet face and knowing he was over in China waiting, I knew I couldn’t say “no.” Little did I know, I was making one of the best decisions of my life.
I had six days to prepare for Billy. It seemed too long – I felt like a kid counting down the days to a trip to Disneyland. I didn’t have any flight details, but I stalked the airport arrivals from China and figured out the flight he could have been on. The night prior to his arrival, I was with family in Cannon Beach. Every hour, I would declare, “Billy is halfway here,” or “He made it to the North American continent!”
I got home an hour before Billy’s ETA. When the truck finally pulled up, I rushed out. Billy was an anxious wreck, but he was here! Before his arrival, we heard that he may have had his eyes removed. Rachel, his intake manager, was trying to figure it out. The left eye was definitely there, and we concluded that the right was there, too, but sunken in.
We brought him inside and were shocked that he immediately navigated to the back of the house. Did he have some sight? Maybe light perception? Eventually, we discovered that he was born without pupils and has been totally blind since birth. As I attempted to settle him in, I was struck by how beautiful he is. It’s hard to believe anyone would abandon him on the streets.
I could probably detail just about every second that Billy was with me, but I will try to summarize the overall experience. The first two weeks were definitely challenging. There were lots of late night wake ups. His GI tract was overwhelmed by the new, nutritious diet (plus treats), and he got sick.
Once he settled in enough to know that he was safe, he would NOT leave the house. I’m pretty sure it’s because he wasn’t sure he would get to come back. Every time we went for a walk, I had to carry him out the door. Random things on walks were scary for Billy. Sometimes he would have a fit over nothing – he was just certain something was there. Billy had lots of energy, and since I hadn’t had a puppy since I was a teenager, I had to get used to that again.
Through all of this, Billy amazed me. His capacity to love was infinite. He was so brave and he learned incredibly quickly. His fear of leaving the house was gone before week two was up! After everything he had been through, Billy’s soul somehow remained pure and gentle. The joy he created every day lifted my spirits. Going home from work, harnessing up, and taking long walks became the best part of my day. His blindness became an afterthought. Of course, he has a few limitations and there were small reminders throughout the day, but being blind didn’t define Billy.
Billy’s Instagram absolutely blew up. Within days, he had more followers than me! The Instagram rescue community is astounding. There is so much love, support, and generosity – it sort of feels like having 610 new family members.
People started asking me how I could possibly hand him over to someone else. It was clear that I was totally in love with this dog. Fostering generates a selfless type of love I’ve never experienced. It’s hard to explain. Even though I never wanted to part with Billy, I always knew that I wanted more for him: a decent yard, a family, and the opportunity to be more active during the day. I felt so guilty about leaving him crated while I was at work. I had an opportunity to give this boy the best life ever.
The first application GBR sent me checked all of those boxes and more. I was cautiously optimistic. My standards were high. I was not going to hand my sweet boy off to just anyone. He deserved the BEST. I knew they were his family within the first 10 minutes of our visit. I could see it on his face, in the way he played freely, and in the way they looked at him. They noticed all of my favorite things about him. His happy prance, his puppy energy, his goofball personality. Billy was born to be theirs. His year and-a-half, 6,000-mile journey was to find this family. It was so clear to me.
I miss my “Billy Love,” but I am fully at peace. Everything about this feels right. I’m super lucky that his family wants to keep in touch. The process as a whole has been very healing for me in many ways. I’m so grateful to have had five wonderful weeks with Billy. I am counting down the days until I can do it again with another dog in need!