by Felicia Donovan
I will admit that one of my biggest fears has always been that of going blind. I expect this stems from progressive vision loss and problems as a child that left me with bottle-thick lenses by the time I was an early teen and the unreasonable fear of not being able to ever read again. It wasn't until years later that I braved Lasik surgery and was lucky enough to discover renewed vision. I was fortunate, but the fear still lingered despite having vision-impaired friends who quite readily raise families, travel frequently, hold down jobs and live quite independently. I marvel at their ability to function in a sighted world so incredibly well.
Little did I know that I would experience vision loss from a very different perspective by becoming a "Seeing Eye Human." Unfortunately, my eight-year old female hound mix, Marka, is quickly losing her sight - almost overnight. Her condition is rare and irreversible. Within just a few short weeks, my dog is nearly blind.
Every day we are met with new challenges as she tries to learn to navigate in her new, sightless world. Fortunately for dogs, their other senses of scent and hearing are so much more acute than ours that they are able to readily compensate for this loss. Many vision-impaired dogs have an excellent quality of life because they simply don't rely on sight as much as humans do.
We are quickly learning to adjust to this new situation with the assistance of much expert advice. I have learned to use verbal commands like "up" and "down" to cue her about stairs. We will scent the furniture as needed to avoid collisions and put bells on the other animals in the house so she knows where they are.
Watching Marka adjust to her new world has reduced some of my own fears. She's happy and otherwise healthy. She's in familiar surroundings. Most of all, she is very much loved and cared for and knows it. And that, more than anything else, will make it all okay. You know, you can learn an awful lot from a dog.