Living with a Blind Dog

Apr 07 2010

My beautiful 10-year-old dog, Doc, gradually lost his sight over the course of last year. We can look back now and recognize when his sight started diminishing although when it was happening, we were clueless! I remember being perplexed as to why he was barking so much more. He was my daycare tester dog from the time we opened our doors in July 2004 until March 2009. He evaluated every dog that came into the daycare and was an invaluable asset. His skill at observing and responding appropriately to determine a dog’s intentions and temperament was unparalleled. He could encourage the shy dogs to open up and motivate the hyper dogs to chill out with very little movement or sound on his part. It was beautiful to watch. When he began starting every evaluation with a few barks, I started questioning my dog who had been flawless up to that point. The crowning moment was when one of his very best friends at daycare, a Shih Tzu named Malone, looked up at me and whimpered softly as he sat next to Doc. I realized that Doc unknowingly was sitting on a large portion of Malone’s long tail fur! I encouraged Doc to get up and move and Malone instantly wagged his whole body for me and then ran over to lick Doc’s face as if to say, “I know you didn’t mean it, no harm, no foul my friend!” Prior to that moment, Doc had always been exceedingly careful around the small dogs. Again, I was perplexed. Sadly, I knew I had to retire my beautiful boy from his daycare job. He was heartbroken when he didn’t accompany me everyday to daycare, but he still comes to the daycare occasionally.

We have had to make some adjustments to our life to accommodate his impairment, but much less than I would have thought. I believe it is true that the other senses become heightened when one sense becomes impaired. Doc uses his nose a lot more than he used to and follows the feel of walls and furniture to find his way around. Luckily, we also have a lot of different textures on our floors. We have hardwood flooring with large rugs, ceramic tile, linoleum and carpeting! Almost every room has a different texture for him! If he loses his bearings, he will often circle several times, lie down and start to pant. We have learned that this is our cue to guide him gently by the collar to a familiar rug or dog bed where he can reorient himself.

We have searched for toys that are durable since he really enjoys super-charged chewing (luckily only on his toys!) that also emit sounds! We have found a couple balls that he enjoys chasing after. But, his favorite game is find the treat! Every Easter, the Easter bunny hides eggs for my daughter, Kelsey to find in the front yard. Once we have found those eggs, the family enjoys hiding treats in the living room for Doc and River! We are careful to keep the treats off of surfaces we normally would not want dog noses to occupy! I’m not sure who has more fun on their Easter hunt, Kelsey or the dogs!

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