This post is part of a series on amazing blind dogs
by Lisa Stubert
I was with Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue (DLRR) at a PACC911 adopt-a-thon about 6 yrs ago when I saw another rescue called Amazing Aussies Lethal White Rescue of AZ. Their “spokesdog” was Chica, a blind and deaf Aussie. I was fascinated by her and I knew I wanted to rescue a dog with a “disability”. Since then, I have adopted several dogs and cats with various degrees of sight and am happy to conclude that being blind isn’t much of a disability at all!
Chica was found alone on the side of a dirt road in Northern Arizona. She was just four months old. Fortunately, she found her way to Amazing Aussies and acts as the rescue’s ambassador. Chica is vision and hearing impaired but regularly attends rescue events and visits schools to educate not only on the repercussions of irresponsible breeding, but that being disabled does not mean disposable. Chica proves every day that despite her challenges of darkness and silence, there is joy for life and unbounded love!
My Amazing Aussie Ella was born blind and bi-laterally deaf (hearing is better in one ear than another which makes it hard for her to tell direction of sounds). Ella is shy but incredibly sweet, and everyone is surprised to learn she is blind as she gets around so well! Ella fit in perfectly with my household of animals. She had no issues with potty training as she could follow Hudson, my Lab/Chow mix, to learn where to go. Ella enjoys chasing Hudson and will hang onto his tail or follow the jangling of his collar tags to herd him around when he chases his ball. Ella seems to sense her surroundings and the ground and does so well getting around!
My DLRR Lab is Diesel, a gentle love bug that nestles his big head against me and crawls up on the couch to take naps across my legs. Diesel lost his sight at around 10 yrs old from Progressive Retinal Atrophy. PRA is a recessively inherited disease of the retina that causes a progressive decrease in the eyes ability to process light. The result over time is total blindness. PRA occurs in both eyes simultaneously and is not painful but there is no cure for this condition. Diesel has adapted well to being blind but he struggles in the mornings when he gets turned around the easiest – he kinda has to get his bearings. I also have to watch him closely on walks for curbs or other surfaces he can trip over. He doesn’t sense them like Ella does.
About Blind Dogs
I do believe there is a difference between a dog that has lost his sight versus a dog that has never known sight. Dogs born blind instinctively rely on their other senses and are very in tune with what is going on around them. Dogs that have lost their sight seem to have a harder time relying on their other instincts and seem to take a longer time to learn how to get around. Ella can navigate with ease situations that Diesel will struggle with, especially new locations.
For either of my blind dogs, there are no extra issues walking, riding in the car, training, feeding, bathing or vet visits. It is really all the same as a normal dog! Safety is a concern though and I do a few things different. For instance, I ensure my yard and house are free of hazards such as ensuring stairs are baby gated off and the pool is fenced. I also try not to re-arrange furniture or leave unexpected items in my dog’s path. I prefer to not take my dogs to the dog park as I find that blind dogs will often not pick up on the signals other dogs can give them but I also believe it depends on your dog.