I spend fourteen hours in my workshop drinking whiskey and building my dog, Luna, a halo. She’s become so blind that she bumps into walls, toddles cautiously around the house. I’m grateful she doesn’t struggle when my husband carries her upstairs, that she just breathes and dangles calmly in his arms like she’s known what flying is her whole life.
The halo straps around her forehead and protrudes about one foot in front of her snout and around her head, lets her bump into things without bumping into things. I make three prototypes. I use five feet of springy wire, a hot glue gun, a yellow swim noodle, rubbery electrical tape, zip-ties, orange cotton tassels for flair. I think about starting a YouTube channel to teach other dog lovers how to make halos, to save them the forty bucks and the six-dollar shipping fee that brand name halos cost. If you have time to watch your dog bump into walls, I’d say into my camera, then you have time to build this. My channel will be called “Sophie Chu Builds Things,” like my name, like what I do.
When Luna opened her eyes on that first morning, how long did she try to blink the night away? Is it like when dogs go deaf, and they think their people just stopped talking to them? I don’t want the world to get any smaller for Luna, like for Grandma, my oldest living friend. Traveling down the block takes an hour, front stoop is a mountain, her uneasy gait like that of a drunken woman after a night in the bars. Before her stroke, Grandma could hold her liquor. At twenty, she packed six bottles of baiju and luck and traveled alone, halfway around the world to meet Grandpa. Tough like burlap, Grandma could braid herself into rope strong enough to climb skyscrapers, her long hair frozen white and coated in cloud.
After finishing the final prototype, I head to the living room to check on Luna, and find my husband whispering something into her ear. He thanks her for the little asks of dogs: a walk, small chases, laps of the tongue, hours of nap. My husband wishes he could lend Luna his human ears when he tells her that the bottom step is still two steps away, that the world has not shrunken, the wall she bumps into is us, the chair leg is us, the footstool is us, just trying to be close to her.
I imagine the million blind fur babies, the tassels and hot glue guns, the un-scuffed walls and boosted confidence. The sunshine is lovely today, and I’m giving dogs back their eyes. But the whole world seems just fourteen inches wide. Luna’s oversized headgear makes turning around impossible. Doorways, too narrow. Water bowl, unreachable. Luna carelessly orbits the kitchen, knocks into the table which tips the box of Lucky Charms sending neon sugar bites all over the floor. Luna’s halo takes a bite out of the drywall, and I have another moment. I sweep up marshmallow moons and clovers and horseshoes into my palm. I let a horseshoe dissolve in the space between my cheek and a sponge-soft molar. Pain spasms my tongue. When I lose that molar, which other teeth will be ready to step up, to take on the pain the molar left behind?
The halo is a laughable, impractical costume dismantled after one day. Such perfect garbage. So, for now, we whistle when Luna nears walls, cluck our tongues for her to turn left, chirrup to turn right, stomp as we walk so she can track the vibrations. This is Luna’s soundtrack, full of clucks and chirrups and whistles. Birdsong for an old dog to follow, blind but never alone.