A one-eyed dog named Howie
“He owned it,” says Brooke Wagner of her one-eyed dog. “It didn’t seem to affect him much.”
Howie, an 11-year-old shih tzu, lost its left eye in 2010.
“He got into a fight with our chow mix,” says Wagner.
Howie always picked on him, and one day the chow (TJ) fought back. Wagner wasn’t home at the time, and her mom called to tell her what happened. After a traumatic and bloody incident, Howie’s eye was now hanging out of its socket. As a result, Howie’s left eye was removed and the skin sewn shut, leaving only an air pocket.
“He likes it to be scratched, and then he’ll rub it on things,” says Wagner, of the skin where its eye used to be.
There was no love lost between Howie and TJ. Wagner says after the incident, she would sometimes find them cuddling, and that Howie would still occasionally attack TJ — further evidence the loss of an eye never slowed him down.
Wagner has had TJ since 2008 and got him when she was a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School in Des Moines. Howie’s previous owner was a classmate of Wagner’s and was no longer able to care for it. The classmate’s mom mentioned they were going to give it up for adoption, and Wagner offered to take it — without consulting her mom.
“I guilted my mom into it, and it was fine. She loves him so much,” says Wagner.
She took the dog with her everywhere, and when she took an extended vacation to Arizona in 2014, it came with her. She realized Howie might be lonely with her gone during the day and no other dogs to play with (TJ the chow mix had passed away), so she got another shih tzu to keep it company and named the puppy Poppy.
“They’re like real brothers. They fight, then they love,” says Wagner.
The brothers gained another brother when Wagner had a son in December 2015.
“We trip a lot,” says Wagner, of the all the small bodies so low to the ground.
The dogs are very patient with her son, and they get along well, Wagner says. When he cries, Howie will even cry with him. However, they now receive less attention because of him and sometimes act out — especially Howie.
A one-eyed dog doesn’t garner much attention, Wagner has found. Between Howie’s dark fur and floppy ears, it’s hard for would-be gawkers to notice.
“They have to get really close,” says Wagner. “Then they ask, ‘Wait, does he have one eye?’ ”
Once she confirms, they inevitably ask how it happened.
The indigent, confident Howie is the favorite of the two dogs. Wagner sometimes matches his collars to her purses. She admits she prefers dogs more than cats. Having always grown up with dogs, she’s happy that her son will, too.
“Dogs are the best, because they’re loyal, and they’re our companions. And they’re fluffy,” she says. “Home is where the dog is.” ♦