Hello, my name is Mike and I live in Sunrise Florida. This is a story about my dog Buddy, a Silky Terrier. My beloved sister Regina passed away suddenly without warning on February 4th, 2010. That’s when Buddy became the “brother” I never had. Truth is, I really didn’t like him that much prior to my sisters passing, but now I can’t live without him, and he me. In November of 2012 my Mom told me, “buddy cant walk down the stairs anymore, I think he has trouble seeing. I told her that he seems normal to me. About 2 days later as I was taking him for a walk, he suddenly stopped and stood up on his two rear legs for no reason. Then he jumped about 3 feet in the air for no reason, like he was trying to jump on something that wasnt there, crashing to the ground. Then when we went into the elevator to go to our floor, he walked right into the concrete wall surrounding the elevator which is about 2 feet from the entrance to the elevator. Mom right, Son wrong! There was a problem with his vision. That afternoon I took him to the Vet. The Vet said that he needs to see a specialist in Miami and an appointment was made for the next day.
We went to the dog eye doctor, and after many tests the conclusion was he has suffered SARDS (sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome.) We were told that there is only one optomotrist, in Iowa, that has made progress in this disease. However, the treatments were extremely expensive and there was only a very small success rate. Her advice; come to terms with his blindness and he will as well. In the end she was right.
I write this now, almost 2 years later to let others know that if their dog loses vision not to worry too much. Yes there was a acclimation period. During this period, which lasted for about a month or two, he just wanted to stay in one room, curled up in the fetal position. During this period he also was very slow when we took him for a walk. VERY very slow. I assume he was afraid to walk into something, as I would be as well. His diet didn’t change much, but he was noticeably more lazy (he was always either filled with extreme energy, or filled with extreme laziness.) After about 3 months he was gaining more confidence outside while on the leash. We started “reading” each others signals. I found the right tension on the leash, and he gained trust that I wouldn’t walk him over a cliff. After 4 months we were back to normal; his leash became like the reigns of a horse; a gentle tug to the left, he goes left. An abrupt tug meant turn faster (useful to avoid others dogs poo.) Same to the right. A gentle snapping “tug” straight up meant STOP. Clicking my tongue meant come closer. Now we are as one. Also, throughout the whole process, up until now, he had no problems walking around the house. Only occasionally walking into something. Most people that come to our house don’t even know he’s blind! So now I will give you some pros and cons of his blindness.
Con: he used to love the dog park and gets along with all animals, including cats and birds as my sister had them (he used to sleep with a cat, 2 Dobermans and a Schnauzer (her boyfriends dogs, and an African Gray bird/parrot.) However, now he is not so friendly with strange animals probably because he doesn’t know their intentions, understandable.
Pro: Even though he is leery of strange dogs approaching him, once he gets to know them he is just like he always was to other dogs licking them and playing smell my butt! He can smell Maggy and Ben and Otto almost before I can see them and starts wagging his tail when they approach him if he is downwind of them. He really really loves other dogs and it brings him much happiness, but no more dog park.
Con: He has gained weight (and recently lost it because of another issue- renal failure, but that is another story.) I used to let him run around off the leash, and he used to have to climb / descend 3 flights of stairs 4-5 times a day. He cant do that anymore.
Pro: Due to his lack of excersize, I thought he had to do something to get back in shape. To facilitate this I started spending more time playing with him with his toys and wrestling with him so his heart and muscles would get a good workout. What is the “pro” of this you ask? I spend more time with him! And he really really appreciates that and gets excited when he hears me coming home, or waking up.
Con: He walks into things sometimes, so every thing has to be accounted for. For example, we cant move furniture, and when UPS delivers a package it must be immediately put on top of a table lest he crash into it. We have a shoe rack at the front door which I had to screw into the wall because one time he got excited when a friend knocked on the door and ran right into it and all the shoes came crashing down on him. It spooked him. Not anymore as it’s screwed to the wall. Also, we cant say “are you hungry” around dinner time. This always, and still does, get him very excited and he loses track of his surroundings and bumps into everything. Now we just put his food in the bowl as quite as we can but he still can hear everything we do and starts to flip out when he hears the bag of food or his treat bag being opened. Even the pedals on me bicycle have to be in the upright position lest he can get “bit” by them.
Pro: Sometimes it’s so funny watching him walk into things. Sometime there are other people on the elevator and he will walk right into them and all over their feet. Always good for a laugh. When his dog friends approach him he has a tendency to run right into them headfirst and freak them out. Also, I found out that dogs know that he is blind and are very gentle once they find out, as soon as the second time he meets them. That includes all dogs; a doberman, a golden retriever, a Boston terrier, mutts. They all figure it out by the second meeting and learn quickly not to approach too quickly or he will growl and show teeth. The golden retriever approaches to about 3 feet then puts her head down until he comes over and sniffs her. Then they start going crazy together.
Con: He sleeps more.
Pro: his snoring can bring uncontrollable fits of laughter to us, especially friends that aren’t used to such loud snoring.
So I write this now, with Buddy snoring next to me, to let those whose dogs have just gone blind to know that it’s not so bad as it may seem at first. He never seemed depressed at any time. It was we that were depressed. He can be left alone for long periods of time like before and all is well. He will eat. He will snuggle. He will smell more, sniffing at everything, as this is how he “sees.” Most important, he will adapt to everything pretty quickly and you will as well. 2 years later and everything seems “normal” now and he is quite happy as before. Most importantly, his blindness will bring you all closer together. He will stay closer to you when you are home and will be OK when you are at work. You will still come home to find the garbage can has been knocked over and the contents strewn all over the kitchen! He will walk slower on the leash than before, but will get back to normal speed when you both learn to communicate when outside. His hearing will get so good, as well as his sense of smell, that he will sometimes start growling and barking at things that we cant hear or smell, like dogs in the distance and the wind that blows through the house when it is cool enough to open the windows here in South Florida. Yes, even the wind blowing against his fur when he is inside (doesnt happen outside) will sometimes make him think that something is touching him and he will growl! And that is just too funny. Hope this helps “you” come to terms with your dogs blindness because they will quicker than you will. Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask email me at firstname.lastname@example.org