I was visiting a donkey sanctuary in Aruba, and I saw a week-old donkey who couldn't get up, and whose mother seemed disinterested. Chickens were pecking around in the dust, and a turquoise lizard scurried by. A tall man in a black tee-shirt, carrying a white rat, came closer. I saw that the bundle he was carrying wasn't a rodent, but a Chihuahua. It burrowed against his chest, in the crook of his arm.
Closer still, I saw that the dog was blind. No, more than that. Her eyes were missing, scooped out of her sockets like melon balls.
I asked him about the tiny dog. He said that he named her Lola and that she was rescued from Hurricane Katrina. He already had three Labs in his home north of Tampa, but his heart went out to this blinded little canine. His other dogs protected her, too.
The man didn't know the story of how Lola lost her eyes. He didn't want to think about it. She must have been through hell, but she seemed happy now. She didn't tremble. In fact, she seemed serene. The man stroked her body, and talked softly to her.
Lola compensated for her loss of eyesight mainly by smell. The man said she could tell when his wife was cutting a piece of cake across the house. Lola liked cake.
The man let her down gently onto a porch area in the sanctuary where you can buy drinks and snacks. She felt her way along, sniffing, but staying near the man's soft voice.
My first dog was a Chihuahua named Mijaca. She yapped and trembled and ran in circles and hardly stayed still. She wasn't particularly likeable. When I was six she fell over at my feet and we buried her in a shoebox under a mango tree in the backyard of the bungalow in Miami Beach.
This dog was different. I stroked her, and she didn't seem afraid. The man said that Lola sleeps next to him and she curls in just the right place so he doesn't roll over her. She is old, so he isn't leaving her behind, and he takes her everywhere, or doesn't go. People allow this, and break the rules because they consider him a seeing-eye man, and because she is so little and has suffered so, and watching the man and the dog makes them both sad and happy.
The man's wife, who was sipping sparkling water on the porch, looked past me, and I couldn't tell how she felt. Perhaps a bit jealous, perhaps not.
This was such an unexpected, poignant situation. Back in the states, with all the hype and hypocrisy and arrogance and harshness of daily life, I couldn't stop thinking of the devotion of that seeing-eye man in the black tee, cradling his white Chihuahua with gouged-out eyes in the donkey sanctuary in Aruba.
I just hope that the baby donkey makes it, too.
Follow Lea Lane on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lealane