Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Seeing Eye Human

by Felicia Donovan

Flowers

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.

13 comments:

Julia Buckley said...

How sad, but also how sweet that your dog can be so contented and loved.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This is both a sad and triumphant post, Felicia. I'm sorry your beloved dog is going blind, but it sure teaches us lessons on how quickly animals adapt, and how maybe we should too when adversity strikes. And maybe we should also learn to hone all our other senses rather than just rely on a few. May Marka enjoy many more years of love and goodness.

Charmaine Clancy said...

My Dad's dog was blind for his last few years and he was still happy and knew everyone by smell :-)

G.M. Malliet said...

Marka is beautiful. I am saddened to read this but Marka clearly chose some loyal and devoted humans to live with.

Mac said...

Love and prayers to Marka

Felicia Donovan said...

Thank you all. She really has taught me quite a bit and as Sue Ann so aptly said, it teaches us all lessons about adapting to adversity.

It's also taught me a great deal about thinking in a more "sensory" mode, something all writers should be good at, right?

Lois Winston said...

Poor Marka! It is wonderful how well she's adapting, though. We humans could learn many lessons from our four-footed friends.

Darrell James said...

A longtime friend of mine had a Cocker Spaniel who was blind in his later years. I used to marvel at how fearlessly he maneuvered. He would sort of "glance off" furniture to keep his bearings. Remarkable!

Thanks for an "uplifting" post, Felicia

Jessie Chandler said...

Way to stick by your dog, Felicia!Although it's heartbreaking when things like this happen, it does reaffirm the resilence of our four legged friends.

Sheila Deeth said...

Wow. What an amazing story, and what a lovely dog.

Felicia Donovan said...

Thank you, Sheila. She is a lovely dog with quite the personality.

Darrell, thanks for sharing your friend's story. Indeed, they are quite resilient. My vet said many pet owners don't even realize their dogs are visually impaired because it happens so gradually and the dogs adjust and compensate.

Unfortunately, this was very quick and sudden, but she's a trooper and there are other dogs in the house to make it less stressful. The other dogs are now her "Seeing Eye Dogs," as well.

Isn't it amazing how Mother Nature takes care of us?

Linda Day said...

Dear Marka......we love you -- and, for dogs, its just not so traumatic, I am glad to hear she is healthy otherwise....I hope she will like a visitor, she will know it is Delia, smell is everything. they are so alike !! since
Delia's 2 TPLO's and thyroixine, she is nearly like a
pup again ... and vocal, you know vocal, WOW !!

Love, sister Delia and her mom :-)

Linda Day said...

Dear Marka......we love you -- and, for dogs, its just not so traumatic, I am glad to hear she is healthy otherwise....I hope she will like a visitor, she will know it is Delia, smell is everything. they are so alike !! since
Delia's 2 TPLO's and thyroixine, she is nearly like a
pup again ... and vocal, you know vocal, WOW !!

Love, sister Delia and her mom :-)