Meet Nanna, the 18-year-old blind and deaf dog on a mission to walk every bridge in the Twin Cities

A dog looks to the right off a bridge
Nanna recently moved to St. Paul with her owner Abe Switters.
Courtesy of Abe Switters

As Nanna the dog is walking over the Rock Island Swing Bridge in Inver Grove Heights, the wind blows through her reddish-brown fur. She peers over the ledge down at the Mississippi river — but — she can’t see it.

Nanna, 18, is blind and deaf. Her human Abe Switters adopted her about six months ago, but their journey began three years ago in Nashville. 

A sad looking dog
Nanna when she arrived at the Nashville Humane Society.
Courtesy of Abe Switters

When Nanna got to the Nashville Humane Society in the summer of 2021, they said she didn’t have much time left. Switters worked at the shelter and took a liking to her. Slowly, the then-15-year-old started healing. 

“Thank God the shelter ran their test and realized, well, hey, maybe she's got a little bit of quality of life left. Let's see if we can find her a foster. And the rest is history,” Switters said.

Because she was in hospice, Switters could not adopt her right away, but that didn’t stop him from trying to improve her quality of life. 

They started with a walk around the block, and then her first mile. A few months ago, she did a 10K. 

“Nanna started getting better almost immediately,” Switters said. “Her hair grew back, her muscles, she started perking up.”

A man and his dog
Abe Switters and his dog Nanna in Inver Grove Heights.
Courtesy of Abe Switters

About six months ago, her eyes had to be removed. When she came out of surgery, Switters said she was incredibly confused, and he had to get used to her face.

“I don’t even think she knew who I was or where she was, it was probably the toughest couple of days I’ve had with her,” he said. “She looked different afterwards but now she just looks kind of normal. She’s beautiful, that’s what she is.”

Switters and Nanna recently moved to St. Paul and started a new adventure — walking every bridge in the Twin Cities. 

It all began when Nanna and Switters crossed the bridge near Minnehaha Falls. Nanna reacted in a way Switters says he won’t forget.

“She just stopped dead in her tracks, and kind of peered out without eyes over the bridge. And it was something about whether it was the wind on her face or maybe being able to smell, you know, far down the river. She was just captivated. And I have never seen her so still and at peace,” he said. 

He went home and began mapping out all of the bridges he wanted to take her to. On Thursday, June 7, he took her to her eighth bridge. So far she has visited The Stone Arch Bridge, Rock Island Swing Bridge, Smith Avenue High Bridge, Washington Avenue Bridge, Wabasha Street Bridge, Ford Bridge, Hennepin Avenue Bridge and the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge.

He began posting about their trips on social media and has had reactions from thousands following along.

Nanna doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon. Once a week, she and Switters do a bridge adventure and additional walking or hiking. On those days she averages about 5-7 miles of walking. 

A dog on a bridge
Nanna poses for a photo on a bridge in the Twin Cities.
Courtesy of Abe Switters

For Switters, he is hoping that Nanna’s story inspires those unsure about adopting senior pets. At the end of the day he says, love healed Nanna. 

“If this influences just one person, it’s all worth it.”