Meet Gabby. She’s looking for a very special home.

Gabby is an eleven year old Shih Tzu rescued from certain death in a shelter, as her injuries made her “unadoptable” by most shelters’ criteria. She came into rescue with one eye so badly damaged and infected that it had to be removed. She was still recovering when another dog in her foster home attacked her and badly damaged the remaining eye.

Veterinarians give Gabby a very slim chance of retaining sight in the eye, but we won’t know for a while how much she can see, if at all. Meanwhile, she is learning to navigate her world in the dark. She loves people, and is fine with other dogs and cats. The perfect person for Gabby will be someone who can be home with Gabby most of the time or take Gabby along, as she is still learning how to function without sight and is consequently very dependent on her human at the moment. She is housetrained, does well in the car, and loves to be held. (She does have a “bad” knee, but it causes her no pain.)

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a blind dog has no quality of life and should be euthanized – ie, “put out of her misery”.

WRONG.

Blind animals, just like blind humans, can adapt to their altered circumstances and lead full, happy lives. It does require a little patience and few adaptations from their humans, but really nothing drastic.

First Requirement: Safe Environment

A blind or even partially blind dog has to learn where everything is in a new environment. It’s our job to make sure that there is nothing potentially dangerous in that new environment. Get down on the dog’s level – in Gabby’s case, up to about 16 inches off the floor – and check all around for things she might run into. Sharp corners? Breakables? Lamps that could be easily knocked over? In my own home, I removed all the springs from behind doors, because they are exactly the same height as my mostly blind dog’s face. I can’t risk any injury to his remaining eye, as he doesn’t see all that well from it anyway.

Look for narrow spaces in which the dog might get stuck, like behind entertainment centers or sofas. Bumble started getting stuck between a pole lamp and a chair; I moved the lamp so that he had room to navigate. Problem solved.

Developing Independence

Start out confining your blind pet to one or two rooms until she learns to navigate comfortably. Baby gates work really well for this purpose. If your pet is in a new environment or is very needy, try keeping her on a leash so that she feels connected to you and thus more secure. As her confidence grows, lengthen the leash or leave it off for longer and longer periods of time. Talk to her constantly, as your voice is her connection to the world around her and her reassurance that she is safe to explore it.

As your pet gets more comfortable and more confident, slowly enlarge the space to which the dog has access. One caveat: make sure stairs are blocked off. Most blind pets can navigate one or two steps up or down, but there is no point to endangering a blind pet by allowing them access to a full flight of stairs.

Adaptation

Every pet is different, but the bottom line is that most pets are much more resilient than people. They do adapt to physical limitations, often much better than we expect them to. It takes time and patience, but the reward is immeasurable. Don’t give up if your pet loses his sight. Talk to vets or trainers about ways to help your pet adapt.

Meanwhile, Gabby is waiting…

If you think your home might be the right one for this sweet little girl, contact www.e-rescue-houston.org.

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