DALLAS — Mirabel the goat has silky hair — and hard horns.
Otis the pig has a coarser hide.
And they both like to snack on watermelon slices.
Those are just a few of the observations young people from the Camp Sight program for visually impaired teens made Thursday morning during a visit to the Blue Chip Animal Refuge — where dogs, cats, horses and other creatures contribute to a feast for the senses.
“You can feel the vibrations,” 15-year-old Raul Velez, of Hazleton, said as he carried a bowl of cut fruit past some large dogs, helping to trigger a loud chorus of barking and canine scrambling.
“That one dog smells like popcorn,” another youth said earlier as the group stroked and rubbed the bellies of smaller pups.
During the past two weeks of Camp Sight activities, sponsored by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind at no cost to the campers’ families, participants got to know each other during a team-building event, honed their cooking skills, practiced soccer and basketball, fashioned arts and crafts and — best of all — some said they had the chance to steer an airplane.
“The pilot was right there,” Raina Long, 17, of Hunlock Creek, explained as she described dual controls in a plane that took off from the Wyoming Valley Airport in Forty Fort and flew over “the (Mohegan Sun) Casino and the horse track and the (Susquehanna) River.”
Of course, the camp wasn’t all fun, games and flying. Some of the activities fell into the “chores” category — and the campers pitched right in at Blue Chip.
“At every good refuge, there’s a lot of garbage,” Blue Chip worker Cammie Anderson, of Duryea, said as willing volunteers pushed wheelbarrows full of garbage bags to the Dumpster and tossed them in.
Anthony Martin, 15, of Dallas, said he is used to taking out the trash at home. Brandon McPhillips, 15, of Mayfield, said he never experienced that particular task.
“You gotta do it, buddy,” Martin said as he helped McPhillips pull on a pair of latex gloves.
Martin — a dog fan who would like to be a chef — and McPhillips — a cat fancier who is planning a career in technology — said they hadn’t known each other before Camp Sight brought them together, but they’ve forged a bond at camp, with Martin, who has better vision, helping McPhillips make his way from one activity to another.
One of the goals of the Camp Sight summer program, as well as the InSight Kids Club that meets year-round, is to give visually impaired youth a chance to meet other people with similar challenges, Association for the Blind president Sara Peperno said last week.
On Thursday morning, one of the teens was excited to learn that one of the Blue Chip animals, a pit bull, shared a challenge with him.
“Brody is deaf!” Anthony Martin exclaimed. “And I’m deaf in one ear. He’s like me!”