They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and the reunion between a dog and his grandpa is a beautiful manifestation of what that phrase means.
When Hayden Kristal brought Bitsy home five years ago, she introduced the five-week-old pup to her father, Steve.
But instead of instant joy, Steve initially felt worried upon seeing the dog. That’s because the Australian shepherd mix was completely deaf and blind.
Her father was concerned about what kind of life a dog like that would have, and he worried if she would be able to get around on her own.
But Steve’s fears vanished when he got to know the energetic pup.
Hayden, 26, told The Dodo that Bitsy “has been her own woman since day one.” In fact, the first thing she did when her mom brought her home was to go straight for the food dish and eat everything until she passed out.
Bitsy’s disabilities didn’t make her helpless; they only made her the best dog that she can ever be.
Hayden said that she is the “sweetest, friendliest, most loving and loyal dog in the world,” and that she is “bold and sassy and she loves adventure.”
All those qualities made Steve, 64, fall in love with Bitsy, and the two spend time together whenever they get the chance.
“He is her number one fan and her biggest champion,” Hayden said. “He will tell anyone who will listen about what an amazing dog she is and how much he loves her. He does the typical grandpa things of spoiling her with treats and toys and she loves to just hang out near him.”
Hayden is a public speaker and stand-up comedian who moved to Colorado in the summer of 2019. She took her dogs with her, but Bitsy had already built a strong bond with her dad in her hometown of Royal Oak, Michigan, by that point. Months after the move, they were still able to see each other regularly.
But when COVID-19 struck last year, Hayden and Bitsy’s life slowed down like everybody else. And the hardest part of it all was that they had to be separated from their loved ones—including her dad.
Steve, an emergency medicine physician, also felt that it wasn’t safe to travel then. Hayden said that her dad’s worries weren’t about him possibly catching the virus.
Since he had been treating COVID-19 patients all day, every day, he was afraid of exposing Hayden and anyone else he would encounter on his way to Colorado.
When Steve became fully vaccinated and the number of COVID-19 patients he saw had declined, they felt safe enough to travel.
So, on March 3, Bitsy and Steve were finally able to reunite! Hayden captured the emotional moment on camera.
Upon recognizing his scent, Bitsy began jumping on her grandpa and barking excitedly. It’s clear from the pair’s reaction just how much they missed each other.
Initially, Steve worried that Bitsy wouldn’t remember him after a year-and-a-half-long separation. But Bitsy proved that she was one loyal dog.
“As soon as I got within scent range, she totally lost her mind with joy,” Steve wrote on Facebook about their reunion. “So did I.”
The fact that Bitsy remembered him after so long apart only strengthened Steve’s appreciation for her.
“Once again Bitsy proved that the abilities she has are far more impressive than the ones she’s missing,” he added. “What a truly amazing and wonderful soul. Maybe you can tell from this video how much we love each other.”
Hayden later shared the video online, where it gathered plenty of support from owners of disabled dogs.
Bitsy and Hayden have a workshop together called “Lessons On Ability From My Deafblind Dog,” where they use stories about Bitsy’s life to impart lessons on ableism, ability, love, and perseverance.
Hayden, who is also deaf, is overwhelmed by the public’s response to the video of Bitsy and her dad’s reunion.
“Bitsy is such a special animal and my dad is such a wonderful person, so being able to share the joy in their reunion with so many people has been an absolute privilege,” she said.
Click on the video below to see how Steve and Bitsy’s joyful reunion played out.
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Please share this story to remind others that there’s a light at the end of this seemingly endless COVID-19 tunnel. Like Bitsy and Steve, we will be able to reunite with all our loved ones soon!