PDlogo   Laddie -  Adapting Well to Blindness


My lab, Laddie, has recently gone blind. Laddie Laddie was diagnosed in April, 2000 at the age of 9 years, 2 months. It's September now, and she went blind sometime in the last two months. She could see fine one week, then the next week she ran straight into the closed gate. Sometimes I think she can still see large objects moving, but overall I think she's totally in the dark.

I have ruled out surgery as an option for Laddie and me. It is too costly and I am unable to put in the time required for post-op care. Sometimes I think it would be great if she could see again, but then I put that into perspective with my life right now, and realize I need to accept her blindness. I really think this is harder on me than it is on her.

She does not seem to mind her loss of vision in the least.  She is still the same sweet dog she's always been. Laddie playing with tennis balls She lays around a little more than usual, but she gets around the house and yard fairly well. I even put in a dog door after she went blind, and it only took her a few days to know where it was. Of course, it took another two weeks of her going to the dog door and waiting for me to tell her it was okay to go out, but she finally started using it on her own!!!

I took her to my parents house a few weekends ago, a place where she has visited frequently, but not recently. We got there, and she still remembered the floor plan. We kept the stairway door closed, but other than that she had free roam and only got lost behind one chair. But to be fair, we had pulled out the sofa-bed, so she was a little turned around from the furniture rearranging.

In my house,  I have decided this blindness means most of my furniture will not get rearranged any more. That way Laddie has fewer things to learn. She's already got the lay of the land. As long as I don't leave a chair pulled out, she usually only runs into the cats or guests. I've put a bell on each of the cats' collars to help Laddie find them, but for some reason the guests are less willing to play along with that.Laddie in her pool

I came up with a few simple commands for her. When she's about to go upstairs, I say "Up." When she's about to go downstairs, I say "Down". I continue saying the command as long as she is on the stairs. Then when she gets to the top or bottom, I say "Good girl" so she knows she's on flat ground again. I did that every time she went up or down the stairs in the house, and after a week she seemed to know how many stairs there were in each place. I also placed an area rug at the top and bottom of the main staircase. Since I have wood floors, this enables her to differentiate where she is.

I hope reading our story helps other owners of dogs who have recently lost their vision during the time of adapting.

-- Contributed by Sandy and Laddie Laddie's Paw-tograph (who turned out the lights?) 

BLIND_DOGS If your dog is visually impaired or blind, you may want to read this book: Living with Blind Dogs. By Caroline Levin. A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low Vision Dogs. 

More information on blind dogs, the blind dog mailing list message board, and chat room can be found on the Owners of Blind Dogs site.

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Contributed September 2000
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