January 22, 2021

Do Dogs See Disability ?

Ethan Grant


It was a glorious summer’s day.

I saw the dog in the park. Off the leash it bolted across the grass sheer joy on its face, freedom at last. There was a young boy with stumps for legs in an electric wheelchair laughing joyously at the spectacle of the dog racing, zigzagging and zooming around the green. Warm sun on his face, the child appeared carefree and happy. Running up to him, the hound abruptly halted, sniffed then darted away, the boy beamed with delight. Can dogs see disability? Is it purely a human construct? I walked home faster that day, excited to make sense of myriad questions, seemingly now more relevant during Pandemic. What is freedom, happiness, disability? Dogs “imprisoned” indoors most of their lives, overjoyed when let loose, and a boy “imprisoned” by his wheelchair. Dog’s imaginations (so we think) are not capable of racing and zooming around the universe contemplating their place in it, unlike wheelchair-bound Stephen Hawking. Is this their disability? Now in Lockdown, if we can learn to appreciate happiness in the simple things, then maybe we too can be as free as a little boy in a wheelchair and a dog in a park.