FARMINGTON — A stray dog that gained notoriety for finding a loving home despite being a crafty escape artist has now rescued another dog, a blind puppy named Seymour, who is also in need of a home.
Houdini the Hermosa Dog trotted into the limelight when she was spotted in December of 2011 living in the open on the Hermosa Middle School grounds. She was sleeping on the school's football field, and many were concerned about her chances of surviving the freezing night temperatures. Despite repeated efforts by Animal Control officers and several concerned citizens, however, she eluded capture for almost two weeks. This led Hermosa administrators to name her after the world's most famous escape artist, and students were kept informed of her activities via daily intercom announcements.
Jamie Voita, who was then working as a special education teacher at Hermosa, along with Farmington High School student Tasha Bowen, spent days lying patiently in the grass trying to lure the dog closer with globs of cheese, and they eventually were able to capture her.
Voita adopted Houdini and re-named her Mosa. The dog has been a member of Voita's family ever since, occasionally appearing as a celebrity guest dog at Hermosa events to help with fundraising efforts.
A month ago, Voita, who now works at Piedra Vista High School, took Mosa to the dog park for some therapeutic exercise, as earlier in the summer Mosa had narrowly escaped losing a leg after being hit by a truck. While at the park, Mosa, who since the accident had been acting shy and skittish around other dogs, immediately ran up to a puppy and began playing with him. Voita learned from the puppy's owner that she had adopted the dog, who was blind, from the animal shelter, but that she was on her way to return him to the shelter as she was unable to care for him.
Voita instead took the puppy home with her. She felt that because Mosa "discovered" the puppy, which she named Seymour, Voita was meant to take on the responsibility of finding a new home for him.
"Seymour was the first dog Mosa played with, so I feel like I'm supposed to save this one," said Voita.
Voita said Seymour, a nine-month-old Great Pyrenees/Miniature Alaskan Spitz mix, is not the best fit for her family because she is working full-time and raising three children, but she is hoping someone will step forward and offer to adopt the puppy.
Voita believes Seymour was probably the result of an attempt to produce a medium-sized, pure-white dog by mixing a Great Pyrenees with a Miniature Alaskan Spitz. Some of these breeding experiments result in blindness, she said.
"I suspect a puppy mill was involved in this," Voita said.
Voita has been seeking advice on how to care for blind dogs from a Pennsylvania-based agency called The Blind Dog Rescue Alliance. Karen Belfi is president and founder of the organization, and she agrees that poor breeding and lack of testing for possible inheritable disorders can lead to defects such as blindness. Belfi says that, in general, blind dogs can make very good pets and usually don't require many special accommodations as a result of their blindness.
"I had a foster dog who had been shot in the face with buckshot, and his eyes had to be removed. We moved to a five bedroom house, and within a few hours, the dog could get around the entire house," she said.
Belfi adds that for blind dogs that still have their eyes, owners need to be careful about low-hanging bushes and branches, and other pointed objects that the dog could run into and further injure their eyes. Other than this, Belfi said a blind dog is pretty much like any other pet.
"Sight is not a dog's strongest sense, anyway," she said. "They rely heavily on hearing and scent, so blind dogs generally do very well. I always teach my blind dogs two commands that help them navigate: 'watch' for when something is in their way, and 'step' when there are stairs or a curb. They learn to slow down and feel for what's there."
Voita says Seymour, who has been neutered and microchipped, does require some help going down stairs, but says he is friendly with other dogs and gentle with kids.
"Seymour will chase (people), but it's not threatening because he usually runs in the wrong direction," she said. "He's a little fluff ball of loving loyalty, and will follow a gentle voice anywhere. He works hard for treats and, aside from a chewing habit we're working on, he is delightfully snuggly."