Lessons from one blind dog led adopters to another

Float the dog smiling and lying against a person whose arm is around him
When a retired couple on vacation met a blind dog named Float, they knew their past experience would help provide him with a home where he would thrive.
By Tara McKenney

Float isn’t just this playful pit bull terrier’s name. It’s also reflective of his carefree personality that doesn’t let a little thing like being blind get in his way. When he arrived at Best Friends in Salt Lake City in January from North Utah Valley Animal Services, he was a happy, bouncy five-year old dog, despite his lack of sight. “He would sort of bump around people and run into things out of pure excitement,” says Monica Ostrom, Best Friends lifesaving specialist in Salt Lake City.

It’s impossible to know if Float was born blind or lost his vision due to an injury or illness, but he’s learned to compensate by using his ears and nose as a guide for getting around. Nothing is going to slow him down.

Team members helped Float navigate his new surroundings by alerting him of their presence when they entered the room to avoid scaring him by accident. Once Float was comfortable knowing someone was nearby, he was eager to make new friends. In fact, he loves every person he meets, although being able to hear but not see other dogs caused him to get nervous and sometimes react in defense. “He would get spooked by them, but he wasn't scared of much else,” says Monica.

Float spent the next two months in foster care with a dog lover who described him as the biggest cuddle bug on the planet who navigated the unfamiliar house with ease. She found him to be the ideal houseguest — playful, friendly, and well-behaved. During his time with her, she took countless photos of him, including many that were shared by Best Friends on Instagram.

New perspective for a blind dog

In March, Matt and Stephanie Daniels, a retired couple from Utah now living in Washington state, were on vacation in Salt Lake City when they saw Float’s adorable photo online. Since they were looking for a dog like him to adopt, they went to meet him at the Best Friends lifesaving center, where Float showed off his bubbly, friendly self and they were both hooked.

Since Matt and Stephanie had previously adopted a blind dog, their experience made them comfortable taking on that responsibility again. It was a tailor-made match. Once it was official, they took Float home with them following the team’s celebratory farewell.

Not everyone was on board with this adoption at first. The extended Daniels family members voiced concern — not over Float’s blindness, but over his breed. But although they had seen negative news coverage about pit bull terriers, spending some personal time with Float seemed to change their minds. “By the time we left Utah, Float’s calm and sweet personality had won both our families over,” says Matt. And on the drive home to Washington, Float made new human friends at many of the rest areas.

[Pit bull facts and myths]

Back in Washington, Matt and Stephanie gave Float time to get familiar with his new surroundings. “He seemed right at home from the moment he got here,” Matt says. Float did bump into things at first, but they maintain their home’s layout to avoid confusing him. A large, fenced-in backyard allows him to enjoy exploring outside without the risk of wandering off.

A dog’s life: snacks, strolls and snoozes

Because the Daniels are both retired, Float has lots of company and divides his time during the day between Matt and Stephanie. Today, his routine consists of walks, outdoor playtime with Matt and a favorite toy, and yummy snacks that include an occasional hot dog. And at night, he tucks everyone else in.

“When we go to bed, he will make sure Stephanie is in bed and then he will come to my side of the bed to make sure I am there before he will lie down on his bed and go to sleep,” says Matt. Float has even adjusted to being alone in his new house. When Matt and Stephanie recently went out for dinner, they returned to find him snoozing on his bed and they rewarded his good behavior with their leftovers.

With their children now raising families of their own, Matt and Stephanie enjoy caring for Float, as well as the energy he brings into their home. They also find inspiration in his adjustment to his visual limitation. “He seems to take everything in stride and not let anything discourage him,” says Matt.

[Senior Shih Tzu goes from down on her luck to a place in the sun]

Matt encourages adopters to seriously consider pets with special needs, if they have the time and patience to devote. “I think what is amazing about dogs,” says Matt, “is their capacity to adapt to their disabilities and never let that slow them down or keep them from picking you up when you’re down.”

With animals’ amazing capacity to adjust to their physical challenges, they can lead a happy life, just like Float (who today is named Frank). Matt says, “Please don’t let a pet’s disability keep you from adopting them.”

You too, can give a pet a loving home and envision a life for them that they couldn’t otherwise see for themselves.

Adopt and help save lives

Visit your local shelter or rescue group to meet a dog like Float who would love to be a part of your family.

Adopt near you

Read more

Blind puppy learns how to navigate his world

Letters from home: pet adoption updates

Blind dog can still find his favorite things