Yesterday morning when I went to get out of bed, I noticed something was wrong with Moose, my almost 13 year old Shih-tzu. He had not been quite himself the last couple of days but something else was going on. His nearly 12 year old brother Mickey was his usual bundle of morning energy but Moose did not have his usual get-up-and-go. In fact, I woke up and Moose was on the floor by the side of the bed. Sometimes Moose will sit there if her cannot figure out where Mickey is on the bed and doesn’t want to risk jumping onto him. Moose lost an eye to an infection several years ago and thus can have vision problems. But Mickey was on the other side of the bed so a potentially ill-fated jump was not what was going on with Moose.
I got out of bed and walked out of the bedroom. Then, I called for Mickey and Moose to go outside. Mickey was ready to go but Moose didn’t move. I kept calling him as I went back into my bedroom and he did not move toward me. As I watched Moose more closely, I realized that he was not moving my head toward my voice but rather all around as if trying to figure out where that sound was coming from. Then, I picked Moose up and brought him into the living room. As I fed the cats, I watched as Moose began running into various objects around the room. Then I realized what was happening: Moose couldn’t see!
This revelation was not totally surprising as my vet had said several months before that Moose was losing vision in his eye. Little did I know that we would reach the point we did yesterday. I called the vets’ office to find out what I needed to do and schedule a time to get Moose in to be seen (with Mickey along as they are the epitomy of canine condependence).
I realized that I needed to learn more about what to do to assist a dog who has lost his/her sight. I called my friend Rebecca who has a blind dog and she made good suggestions such as not leaving items such as a stray briefcase. On Facebook, I asked for suggestions as how to deal with Moose’s new normal and received good feedback.
Then, I went about observing Moose and seeing if I could identify any patterns in his behavior. I would get down on the floor and tell him to follow my voice which he seemed to understand. I realized that he was likely hungry and thirsty so I directed him to the water bowl to get a drink. The problem was he did not know that is where he stood.
So this is where I say “Thank you, Helen Keller”! Since I was in elementary school, I have been fascinated by Helen Keller and how this girl who was deaf, blind and mute learned to communicated. I read books about her and watched both versions of “The Miracle Worker” a number of times. Touch, taste and smell were Mrs. Keller’s primary ways of learning about the world around her.
As I stood with Moose at the water bowl, I subconciously remembered what I had learned about Helen Keller. leaned over and put some of the water from the bowl to Moose’s lips. He instantly figured out where he was standing and began lapping up water. Once he finished, then I was able to get him to his food which he began eating as well.
As the day progressed, Moose was running into fewer walls, items and the like. He can’t manage the jump up the bed but has figured out the couch and can get up and down from there without my lifting him. As I typed those words, he jumped off the couch and repositioned himself on the floor without much difficulty.
I expect that I will be learning a lot about helping a vision-impaired dog through this journey (may even write a book about it). Like every challenge I have faced, there will be peaks and valleys but I know one thing for sure: I will learn a great deal through the journey and be able to help others along as well (OK, that’s two things)!
Speaking of Helen Keller, here’s a terrific video which includes her talking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ch_H8pt9M8
Jane Freund is an author, publisher and speaker who owns and operates Freundship Press, LLC. Her latest book, “Eggshells and Elephants — My Cancer Journey Thus Far” is available at amazon.com.