Special to the Herald
BRISTOL - As soon as the front door of Robert Genuarioâs and Samela Santanaâs home opens for guests, a Labrador retrieverâs snout peers through the frame.
Buddy snuffles vehemently, head bobbing in little circles as she memorizes the scents of her ownersâ visitors. Itâs Buddyâs routine process to sniff, sniff and sniff some more, as smells are her vision, making up for her lack of eyes.
âSheâll come up to you, rub you with her nose, get a feel of who you are and figure it all out,â Genuario said, sitting on the couch of the engaged coupleâs living room. As he spoke, Buddy did exactly that, nuzzling any hand that hovered midair in front of her. âSheâs super sweet when sheâs around people.â
Before coming home with Genuario and Santana in July, Buddy resided at the Connecticut Humane Societyâs Newington location; her previous family had given her up. Soon after arriving, surgeons at the shelter removed both of Buddyâs 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.
âI really wanted to adopt an older dog,â Santana elaborated. âWhen we figured out she was blind, I got so sad. We were worried about her, but we took a shot.â
âI 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,â Genuario added. He doesnât regret the decision, calling Buddy âbeautifulâ whenever she approached him for a scratch on the head, tail wagging.
Buddyâs limitations donât 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 ownersâ feet while they watch television.
âWeâll always joke that she loves watching me play video games or loves watching TV,â Genuario said, laughing. âSheâs the sweetest and easiest dog weâve ever had. Sheâs super cuddly and is a very chill, very easy-going dog. Sheâs never had a single accident and never chewed up anything. Sheâs very well-trained. They said she keeps a clean kennel at the shelter and thatâs very true.â
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, itâs tough to take it away. Nothing else grabs her attention as much as the treat - Genuario explained that âif it doesnât have peanut butter inside, sheâs not interested.â
Back at the CHSâ 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 Meyerâs office for a month while at the CHS, âgreeting everyone at the door and napping in the sunshine near the window.â The day Meyer and the staff had to let the Labrador retriever go is an unforgettable one for her.
âIt was definitely one of those really, really exciting moments,â Meyer remembered. âEverybody 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.â
Susan Wollschlager, marketing and communications manager for the CHS, also recalls that day well, saying she even saw people âtearing up.â
âWhen Buddy went home, there were at least eight of us in the office,â Wollschlager said. âShe had a fanclub here.â
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 âsnuffle matâ - a blanket with pockets to hide treats in that one staff member sewed just for Buddy. Genuario called it a âbaby shower.â
âWhen 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. âYou can take this. You can take that. This smells like her, so maybe sheâll like it.â 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,â he said.
For Genuario and Santana, anything is worth it for Buddy. Buddy wonât eat dog food, so the two cook her meals themselves. Whenever, Buddy wants to go outside, they go.
Even when theyâre busy or are focused on the TV, their hands always find themselves back at Buddyâs fur, petting the top of her head or scratching her under her jaw - her favorite spots.
âSheâs so calm and so sweet,â Genuario said. âSheâs a better dog than weâre dog owners.â
Kristina Vakhman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.