Couple and adopted blind dog become best buddies

Published on Sunday, 5 August 2018 21:13
Written by Kristina Vakhman

Special to the Herald

BRISTOL - As soon as the front door of Robert Genuario’s and Samela Santana’s home opens for guests, a Labrador retriever’s snout peers through the frame.

Buddy snuffles vehemently, head bobbing in little circles as she memorizes the scents of her owners’ visitors. It’s Buddy’s routine process to sniff, sniff and sniff some more, as smells are her vision, making up for her lack of eyes.

“She’ll come up to you, rub you with her nose, get a feel of who you are and figure it all out,” Genuario said, sitting on the couch of the engaged couple’s living room. As he spoke, Buddy did exactly that, nuzzling any hand that hovered midair in front of her. “She’s super sweet when she’s around people.”

Before coming home with Genuario and Santana in July, Buddy resided at the Connecticut Humane Society’s Newington location; her previous family had given her up. Soon after arriving, surgeons at the shelter removed both of Buddy’s eyes because of the glaucoma causing her immense pain. Her status as a handicapped older dog made her difficult to adopt, but as soon as Genuario and Santana saw Buddy, they were in love.

“I really wanted to adopt an older dog,” Santana elaborated. “When we figured out she was blind, I got so sad. We were worried about her, but we took a shot.”

“I was in the market for a puppy, but when Buddy came in, she was super sweet and super docile and super calm. We came back the next day and picked her up,” Genuario added. He doesn’t regret the decision, calling Buddy ‘beautiful’ whenever she approached him for a scratch on the head, tail wagging.

Buddy’s limitations don’t stop her from being a normal dog. She adores walks so much that Genuario and Santana take her outside at least 10 times a day.

She always explores storm drains, Genuario said, withdrawing only when her paw steps on the lid.

Indoors, Buddy has mapped out a layout of the house and no longer needs her halo - the harness with a loop that kept her from bumping into things at the CHS. Though she still occasionally collides with furniture, Buddy knows how to navigate herself to her doggy bed and to the dining room, which the couple has converted into her own room.

She also bounds over to lounge at her owners’ feet while they watch television.

“We’ll always joke that she loves watching me play video games or loves watching TV,” Genuario said, laughing. “She’s the sweetest and easiest dog we’ve ever had. She’s super cuddly and is a very chill, very easy-going dog. She’s never had a single accident and never chewed up anything. She’s very well-trained. They said she keeps a clean kennel at the shelter and that’s very true.”

But what Buddy loves most of all is peanut butter. Genuario and Santana spoil her with a Kong of it that they keep in the refrigerator. As soon as Buddy has it, it’s tough to take it away. Nothing else grabs her attention as much as the treat - Genuario explained that “if it doesn’t have peanut butter inside, she’s not interested.”

Back at the CHS’ Newington shelter, the staff is thrilled that Buddy is doing well with her owners. Behavior coordinator Becca Meyer is especially glad that Buddy finally has a new home.

Buddy lived in Meyer’s office for a month while at the CHS, “greeting everyone at the door and napping in the sunshine near the window.” The day Meyer and the staff had to let the Labrador retriever go is an unforgettable one for her.

“It was definitely one of those really, really exciting moments,” Meyer remembered. “Everybody was relieved that she finally found a family that was able to give her the care she needed. I was late to a meeting on purpose because I needed to talk to [Genuario and Santana]. I tried not to cry because it made me so happy above anything else.”

Susan Wollschlager, marketing and communications manager for the CHS, also recalls that day well, saying she even saw people “tearing up.”

“When Buddy went home, there were at least eight of us in the office,” Wollschlager said. “She had a fanclub here.”

The CHS staff cared for Buddy to such a degree that they ended up sending Genuario and Santana home with more than three bags of dog food, a plethora of treats, a kennel, a bed, a water fountain, a sound machine, her halo and her “snuffle mat” - a blanket with pockets to hide treats in that one staff member sewed just for Buddy. Genuario called it a “baby shower.”

“When we went to pick her up, they were calling people down to say goodbye to her. When we were bringing her to the car, they were following us with bags of stuff. ‘You can take this. You can take that. This smells like her, so maybe she’ll like it.’ We must have gotten the adoption fee back in snacks and treats alone. Our laundry room is filled with bags of food. They clearly liked her,” he said.

For Genuario and Santana, anything is worth it for Buddy. Buddy won’t eat dog food, so the two cook her meals themselves. Whenever, Buddy wants to go outside, they go.

Even when they’re busy or are focused on the TV, their hands always find themselves back at Buddy’s fur, petting the top of her head or scratching her under her jaw - her favorite spots.

“She’s so calm and so sweet,” Genuario said. “She’s a better dog than we’re dog owners.”

Kristina Vakhman can be reached at

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, Newington on Sunday, 5 August 2018 21:13. Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2018 21:15.