Hi, I’m Jaye and my darling almost-nine-years-old mini schnauzer female companion is called Puppy Girl. That’s actually a term of endearment that stuck better than her rather lengthy name because, from the moment I brought her home with me when she was eight weeks old, I knew I loved the little salt-n-pepper ball of fluff. I retired early due to an accident that left me with limited mobility, and she helped me adjust to a very different life. I’m not exaggerating when I say she pulled me out of a slough of depression, so I owe her a lot. After nearly nine years together, we’ve both gone grayer, and we’ve both had health problems.
I can trace many of Puppy Girl’s health issues back to a severe reaction to vaccinations that compromised her immune system–too many given at one time and, in particular, with a rabies booster that wasn’t even due in my state for another two years. Needless to say (but I’ll state it anyway), I changed vets and found a wonderful clinic in my area–All Creatures Animal Care Clinic. Isn’t that a wonderful name for a veterinary clinic? The vets and techs there are pretty wonderful as well.
In July 2012, Puppy Girl woke up one morning with “gunky” eyes, and I thought, “Yikes! Conjunctivitis!” It wasn’t, though; it was KCS or extreme dry eye. A Schimmer test showed almost no tears, and treatment over a three-month period did not increase her tear production. In fact, she had zero tear production. I was keeping her eyes filled with GenTeal P.M., a night-time ophthalmolgic ointment, day and night to prevent corneal abrasions, and cleaning the frequent mucous that is part of the condition from her eyes even more frequently. KCS is a high-maintenance disorder.
An ophthalmology vet to whom Puppy Girl’s primary vet referred us wanted to perform surgery to reroute a salivary gland duct to her eyes, but after reading a lot about the procedure and its possible side effects (including four years worth of forum posts by people who either contemplated or had it done, only one of whom was satisfied in the early stages), I opted to continue the frequent medication. As a retiree at home nearly all the time, it wasn’t difficult for me to maintain the medication schedule.
Because I kept her eyes lubricated with the ointment (it dissipates slowly so works better than drops or gel), and she didn’t show signs of pain, also because her eyes looked better when examined by her primary vet, I was caught off guard when it became obvious in summer, 2013 that she was going blind. (I’m a freelance writer and have written several stories about Puppy Girl on HubPages.com. I write as JayeWisdom on that site, and you can learn a lot about Puppy Girl–and her “Big Mama”–in the HP stories listed on my profile page. I’ll add the link to the first article about my discovering her blindness at the end of this story for anyone who is interested in learning more, both about the KCS and her blindess. Both of those articles are two-parters, so you can see there’s too much to duplicate here.
It’s been a tough few months for both Puppy Girl–frightened and depressed by the loss of her vision, trying to adjust, but slowly–as well as for me. I went through several stages of grief before I accepted what I could not change. Now my goals are to help her return to the happy-go-lucky dog she’s always been and enjoy life, as well as ensuring that she doesn’t suffer from the problems of chronic KCS.
The vet specialist who diagnosed her blindness said she might still be able to see some light and shadows, but should be completely blind within six months. He recommended enucleation of both eyes then so it won’t be necessary to continue the medication. That’s another difficult choice to make, but I know it will be best for her to take away the possibility of air and dryness causing painful corneal abrasions. Also, I’m afraid to leave her alone at home for more than two hours because of her medication schedule. This is something I can’t guarantee will always be so, as I’m getting older right along with her. On the few occasions when I’ve had to be away longer during the period since she was diagnosed with KCS, either my son or a friend was able to care for her, but I worry about emergencies. The surgery will, at least, keep her from pain. Still, I dread it as does everyone else who faces having this done to a beloved pet.
I’ve read a lot about dogs going blind in adulthood and used the new information to try and help her adjust to blindness. I’m glad to find this support community of pet parents with blind dogs to learn from and share my stories as well, which may help someone facing a similar situation.
I’m going to look for some photos of my sweet fur girl when she was younger, but will end with one showing her with very short-cut coat and shaved face–necessary in order to keep her eyes as clean and lubricated as possible. Schnauzers have such long lashes and hair on their faces that it gets in the way of hygiene and proper medication. She looks different, but she’s still my dear sweet Puppy Girl. We’re both growing older…two aging ladies together. She’s given me so much. I can’t do any less for her.
Read more about Puppy Girl going blind at these URLs:
You’ll find more stories about Puppy Girl on my profile page (subdomain):