For man and his dog, love is blind |

For man and his dog, love is blind

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Contributed photoJohn Acha recently adopted Ashlar, a blind dog from Colorado Animal Rescue, for his 3-year-old son, Mason. It turned out to be a good decision for pet and owner.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – There is something about a good dog that makes John Acha happy.

Acha is a dog person. Always has been.

When Acha decided to adopt a new dog for his 3-year-old son, Mason, he paid a visit to Colorado Animal Rescue south of Glenwood Springs.

He went there with his perfect dog in mind, but what he found was so much more than he could have ever expected.

“I’m a real fan of boxers,” Acha said.

And that’s what he was looking for. In fact, he said that he had found a boxer puppy at CARE that was ready to be adopted. That’s when he found Ashlar.

“There was this other dog in there, a little black mix, kind of a mutt,” he said.

He asked what the story was with this little dog. And that mutt changed Acha’s mind in a hurry.

“She’s got a real good temperament,” Acha said of his new border collie-healer mix.

But Ashlar is also blind, which made adopting her somewhat of an odd experience for Acha, though it turned out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

“I just started thinking about it, and the lady told me that this dog would be really hard to adopt out,” Acha said.

Acha said that it’s taken some time to get used to having a blind dog. Ashlar has problems running into things and needs to be warned when approaching stairs.

“She’s almost knocked herself out running into the coffee table,” Acha said.

But he wouldn’t trade her for all the money in the world.

When Acha was invited to go on a camping trip with his neighbors to their property east of Craig, he loaded up the tent, fishing poles and his new dog.

After a long day of some work at the cabin and fishing in the afternoon, Acha sat next to the fire in the evening and noticed that Ashlar would not leave the cabin’s porch.

“Ashlar would sit on the step of the cabin and would not come more than halfway to the campfire,” Acha said.

He understood. Ashlar can only see shadows during the day. At night, the dog’s vision worsens.

So, Acha just let Ashlar remain on the porch where she was comfortable. But as night descended and Acha decided to turn in, he attempted to walk Ashlar to the tent, which was pitched about 30 yards from the cabin’s porch. However, Ashlar would not go more than halfway to the tent, either.

“She wouldn’t go any farther,” Acha said. “She adamantly sat down and would not go any farther.”

So, Acha let Ashlar sleep on the porch, while he returned to his tent.

About 2 a.m., Acha awoke to a “deep grunt” of a black bear just feet from his tent.

“It was like nothing I’ve heard before,” Acha said.

Soon after the growl, Acha heard Ashlar’s familiar bark. When he stepped out of his tent, the bear was nowhere to be found. And Ashlar was only feet from the tent. Acha was wide awake.

“It only lasted a couple of seconds, but it seemed like a whole lot longer,” Acha said.

The thing that amazed Acha is that he couldn’t make Ashlar go to the tent earlier, but she found her way there, in the middle of the night, to scare off the bear.

“She knew that I was out there and something else was out there, too,” he said. “And she came to me.”

Colorado Animal Rescue Executive Director Leslie Rockey said that they deal with people all the time who come in with an idea of the perfect pet, and end up leaving with something entirely different.

“It happens all the time,” Rockey said. “People come in and they have in mind a dog that they had as a kid, and they think that is the same thing they want.”

Rockey said that part of CARE’s job is to help people pick the right type of pet that fits into their lifestyle.

“Our main goal is to have a dog that is going to go home with them, and stay with them,” Rockey said.

Rockey said that Ashlar, who was named Bessy while she was at CARE, was only at the facility for about one month before Acha adopted her. It was a relatively short time period for a dog with a medical condition, according to Rockey.

“You can understand, people don’t want to take on more than they can handle,” Rockey said.

Pets with medical issues often mean more cost to the owners, Rockey said, but they educate people on those issues as well.

And Acha knew what he was getting into with Ashlar being blind, but he never expected what he got.

“But I love that dog,” Acha said with a smile. “I’ve got no regrets in adopting her.”

There’s just something about a good dog that makes John Acha happy.

Rocky was surprised when Acha returned and told her about the encounter with a bear. But she said that people often return to update the employees of CARE on the animals that the center has adopted out.

“Not specifically stories like this,” she admitted. “[Acha’s] story is a great story.”

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