Jackson’s eyes went from looking a little weird when the light hit them just so. To bad: “Oh hey, yeah, his eyes are looking kind of cloudy… I should probably Google that some time.” To worse: Just about everyone noticed his eyes looking strange and cloudy at the Shark Attackiversary. Just two months ago, in August, we had a party with just about the same cast of characters and no one noticed anything off about Jackson, two months later, it’s being brought up constantly.
They got that bad, that fast, and we were both REALLY worried.
They day after the party, Jacksons cloudiest eye was also red and irritated, so Aaron took him to the vet the next day. (Yes, just Aaron.)
Wanna hear the good news/bad news/good news, with some questionable parenting thrown in for good measure?
What’s wrong with him?
The good news is that he’s not in any pain and he’s 100% healthy. Just, you know… walks into stuff sometimes.
Walks into stuff?
Yeah… I have actually stood there and WATCHED Jackson walk right into trees while on our walks. Here I’m like, “Doo dee doo… He must be really into sniffing whatever he’s sniffing when he walks into stuff like that.”
No, jackass, he’s been going blind! You’re bad at this.
Is there a way to fix this?
The short version: No.
Long version: You could do cataract surgery, but we decided not to even consider an operation unless he’s in pain or in peril. The vet, hilariously and in not so many words, indicated that surgery is basically a rich people option, since it’s entirely elective.
Are you okay?
Mostly okay. Aaron and I had a bit of a cry over it together, but we’re focusing on the fact that, other than the cataracts, he’s the picture of health. But every now and then something hits us — like the fact that our hand signals (sit, stay, up, and down) that he learned so fast and so well will be lost on him, or that at some point he’ll never see our faces again — and we’ll burst into tears.
The worst part, for me, is that I’ve already been feeling the pressure to buy a house with a yard. I thought we had few more years until Jackson got so old that he couldn’t make it up and down the two flights of stairs, and across the long courtyard, just to relieve himself. But now I’m feeling like we need to find out how to get a place ASAP, so that he’ll be able to see and memorize his living space, before his eyes completely go. I’m fuh-reaking about how to pull this all off with less time.
So what are you going to do?
Luckily we’ve always played nose-training games with our beasts. Mostly “smell it find it,” where we let the dogs sniff an object/toy/treat, then we hide it somewhere in the house and let them sniff it out. So we’ll just continue to play that game, but with more frequency.
The vet told Aaron that blind dogs do impressively well at home. In fact, a LOT of people had NO IDEA their dog was blind, until they re-arranged their furniture, and watched as Fido repeatedly walked, head-first, into the recliner. Or until they put down a box, as they came in the front door, and watched Nugget plowed right into it as she ran to greet them.
My friend Laura, who had a predominantly blind dog for 13 years, has also been a wealth of info and support. She told me…
Dogs do this thing called “cognitive mapping” of familiar places. They memorize the layout. So as long as you keep it from varying, he should be good at home. For what it’s worth, they can map anywhere very quickly. Shane lived in five different places, and I traveled with him too. You place their food and water down in a specific spot, put them in front of it & let them sniff & bonk around. They will build a map from there based on scent within a day or so. It’s really very amazing.
Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low-Vision Dogs is an older book and kind of expensive, so maybe see if you can find it at the library first if you’re interested in it. But it really helped me work with Shane, teach him how to follow up and down curbs on a walk, map new places, etc.
Also Eye Care for Animals in Pasadena is wonderful too, should you need an eye vet.
Since Jackson’s full blindness will come on gradually, he’ll be just fine. We’ll just keep an eye on his eyes, work on his nose, and actually stop him before he walks into trees from now on.