Meet Majic Merlin!
MERLIN, MY BLIND COMPANION
“Majic Merlin Melvin” is a tri color sheltie that is blind but much loved. We had let our
lovely courtisian, Cassandra, teach a friends shy shelty male, Yankton, to breed. Merlin’s dam,
Cassie, was 10 years old at the time of his birth and had uterine inertia. The vet decided a C
section delivery was necessary when she was several days overdue. Merlin was the only survivor
from that eagerly awaited litter. He was Yanton’s first pup.
Cassie washed and cuddled Merlin but did not come into milk. We tube fed Merlin puppy formula
every 2 hours. He developed an under eyelid infection when he was four days old. Not getting
any colustrum at birth had left him vulnerable. There were no commercial colustrum products
available at that time. Merlin’s eyes were damaged when he slashed the swollen eyelids open
with his dewclaws to relieve the pain. Merlin compensates for his lack of sight with keen
hearing and busy nose. Merlin confidently leads the group of dogs on the half-mile-long
woodland trail by the river where his co-owner Marilyn Castilaw, takes him walking. Merlin’s
ability to hold a cognitive map of places and obstacles is astonishing! Merlin is completely
comfortable navigating Marilyn’s and our home and yards. We have six fenced dog yards, each
about the size of a city lawn. Merlin knows to a step where the fences, trees and dog houses
are in all of them. He often stands on his hind feet and uses his front feet to see if gates or
doors are open. When trotting in unfamiliar territory, he picks the front feet up very high and
reaches each of them out beyond his nose to check for obstacles. That saves a lot of wear and
tear on the head! City streets, country roads, horse barns and friends’ homes are all taken in
stride when Merlin has the security of being on leash with one of his people. Merlin relies on
subtle cues in unfamiliar territory and walks close enough that his fur just barely touches. He
adjusts his steps to match the handlers. The verbal cues “step up” and “step down” help with
curbs and stairs.
Expertly maneuvered long whiskers let Merlin gauge the depth of water in a bowl, check to see
how far open a crate door is and precisely locate toys and snacks.
Merlin loves to lay beside his sire, Yankton, under Marilyn’s piano and listen to her play.
Favorite toys are a sheepskin doll, a ball with a bell in it, socks with knots and small throw
rugs. Throw rugs come in for a terrible shaking with lots of sound effects! Sleeping in Marilyn
and Tim’s bed with his head on the pillow is a real favored spot of Merlin’s. Next best is the
biggest, softest dog pillow in the kitchen at our house. Merlin enjoys exercising the starlings
that try to steal dog food. He hears them land and chases their wing sounds when they take
Merlin was an apt pupil for obedience, homing in on
my voice and coming directly to me when called. We play “find” and “tag”. Merlin can find
me by homing on the scuffing sound of my shoes on the ground and the noises my clothes
make brushing together. Left in an unfamiliar area alone, Merlin sometimes barks and
seems to use the echoes of his voice to guide him around obstacles.When I took Raz in the house to dry him off, Merlin
rushed to him. Merlin licked his face, whined happy noises and danced! You know, none of
the sighted dogs had paid any attention to Raz’s plight. After deciding I wasn’t calling
them they had just gone on about their own activities.
Merlin had a special bond with his dam. They sometimes ran wildly with Merlin positioned at her
hip and letting her guide him. Merlin is a very gentle personality. The Siamese colored Manx
cat, Elmo, and he are affectionate friends. They nap together and wash each others faces and
ears. Merlin laid down and carefully mouth rassled with his half brother, Rush, when Rush was
just four months old.
Razmataz is a sable merle pup that visits us once a week and is occasionally boarded here for a
few days. Raz and Merlin are good friends.
When Raz was 5 months old he was missing at bedtime one night. Our six dog yards covering about
an acre are securely fenced. I started checking the dog houses, continuing to call Razmataz.
Then I checked all the hidey holes under the bushes. Next I looked behind the dog houses and
began to be really concerned. Merlin kept running around me, barking his alarm bark and then
running back to the front yard by the irrigation pump. I had checked that area early on. After
following him back once, I told him to be quiet. Merlin just got more and more excited. He
started jumping at the fence, barking and then coming back to me. Irritated with his antics I
took him to the house and locked him in. Grabbing a flashlight on the way out, I went back to
the search. It dawned on me that Merlin’s actions were very unusual. I took the flashlight and
went back to where Merlin was jumping at the fence. Shining the light on the area just beyond
the fence showed the big clump of tiger lilys on the rock bank of the creek wriggling. That
caught my attention! Forcing a hand thru a two inch by four inch fence square I moved a handful
of lily leaves. Under the leaves a completely wet, bedraggled and shaking Razmataz was
crouching. The small ledge he was huddled on was barely big enough for him. The rock ledge was
above a deep, fast moving creek down a steep drop. Raz had apparently been snooping around on
top of the irrigation pump platform and fell thru a narrow gap in the boards. He would have
been swept over a waterfall before managing to crawl up to his precarious perch. Raz wasn’t
about to get back in the water voluntarily to cross the creek to come to me further down where
I could help him out. I took tore down some guard fencing on the pump platform. Next put a
noose around Razmataz’s neck. Using the noose to steady Raz so he wouldn’t fall off, I ventured
across another fence and out on the rock ledge. The footing was too hazardous to try to carry
the pup back the way I’d come. I picked Raz up and dropped him over the
We love Merlin dearly and have always been glad he lives with us. He is special!