“I can tell by your eyes that you’ve probably been crying forever
And the stars in the sky don’t mean nothing to you, they’re a mirror
I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke my heart
If I stay here just a little bit longer will you listen to my heart?
If I stand all alone, will the shadow hide the color of my heart
Blue for the tears, black for the night’s fears
The star in the sky don’t mean nothin’ to you, they’re a mirror
I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke my heart.”

I have been singing this song to Achilles for awhile now, being a lover of music and lyrics, it is not uncommon that a song gets stuck in my head. Every word lingering, I end up singing it for days after I have listened to it. Such has been the case for the above song by Danny Whitten and sung by Rod Stewart: “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Somehow, it became appropriately fitting for what would be rounding the bend.

Achilles is a member of our family. He has been beside me during many personal challenges and celebrated life with us just the same. He is also a guard dog, his sense of belonging and managing the property compounds his connectedness to us.

Anyone who knows me, is aware that Achilles holds a big piece of my heart. He has been a handful of personality and adventure, eating his way through pocketbooks, shoes, makeup and remote controls. This behavior went on for six years and while incredibly frustrating at times, his love, charm and good looks won me over every time.

He is now 8 years old and has settled into the most wonderfully kind, gentle respectful, presence who would take a bullet for each of us.

My giant woke up blind five days ago. I opened his crate in the morning and after his usual friendly greeting, he stumbled and walked into a chair. He continued bumping into things around him. I thought he had a brain tumor.

I assumed this is what I was facing. I prepared myself mentally to be stoic, to not cry, to not react, when I heard this news. The vet told me to bring him in immediately, which I did. His complete blindness was confirmed within three minutes. The dire concern was written all over the face of my intelligent and warm-hearted vet. He is no stranger to Achilles; this dog has been through hell with an autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism, hot spots and more.

I nursed him back to life last year after his bout with Lyme disease. I hand fed him for months as he lay frequently motionless on his side, enjoying the cool kitchen floor. I thought he would die from Lyme disease, so the bond between us after months of care was impressive. He never let me out of his site after that life-threatening episode.

As I lifted my 135-pound giant into the car and headed to our next appointment, I continued training my mind to refrain from emotion. The words I rehearsed in my mind would be carefully selected to deliver the news to my children. I prayed for emotional stamina and found it.

Social distancing has been much easier with the beauty of Achilles’ love. Our lives are better with him in it; he has been a gift to us. Thank God I did not have to deliver such ominous news. His blindness is not neurological and is due to his autoimmune disease. He has a condition called SARDS which stands for sudden acquired retinol degeneration. There is no cure and no hope or expectation that his blindness will be reversed. We have accepted this news and feel so sorry for him, but he will be OK; he is in the best possible hands. I adore him.

He still feels and he feels the love and care that we have for him. I’m so impressed with his ability to transition without resistance. Achilles can’t see but he can smell and he can continues to persevere without a hinge. He is hesitant when needed and carefully navigates each step if he is walking upstairs or down. In one afternoon he learned four new commands that will keep him safe, and he listens to every step I make. I have become his seeing eye person. I am his new set of eyes and I feel his trust in me.

I welcome the role and will continue to love and care for him as if he were eight weeks old. He is an inspiration to me; we should all graciously handle the challenges of life in this fashion.

We accept, we learn, we love, and we move forward. He is a living example of what I have taught my children. Life goes on, and we keep moving with forward momentum and planning. If you are surrounded with love, anything is possible. Onward and grateful. 

Michelle Bravo and Achilles

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