Yesterday Ben’s ‘Blind Dog Gear’ arrived and today we had our first walk in the fields. People with other dogs approached us carefully when reading the Blind Dog Sign and their dogs had a sniff. Ben was very irritated at first and started barking whenever a dog and their owner came near us but I held his lead short and kept talking to him, reassuring him that there was no danger. I kept saying: good dog, it’s only another doggie, there you go and I stroked the other dog first and let Ben sniff my hand. After only a few minutes, Ben could cope with the situation and acted as he normally always did before he went blind. He didn’t show the slightest aggression or panic. I even let him off the lead for a few minutes so he could roam and as it was the field where we had been walking from puppy-age on, he soon seemed confident and enjoying himself. Wagging his tail, he followed me on heel.
When we were near a group of barking dogs playing with a ball, Ben stood still, held his nose up and when he was sure there was no danger, he kept on walking, wagging his tail.
A blind dog cannot read the body language of other, approaching dogs and might act in a way other dogs can’t interpret as used to. In the dog world there is no pity; dogs with disabilities must be led towards other dogs in a way that both don’t misunderstand the situation. As a dog owner, one must signalise just that: it is he or she who is in charge, not the dogs.
It was a nice, sunny January day and we enjoyed the walk. Ben sniffed a lot around and I felt, he was perfectly fine adjusting to this new situation.
At home, we removed any sharp edges (our living room table had to go) and tomorrow, we will cut any hedges in the garden and take the rose bushes out.
Ben walks very close to walls. In the house, he walks along the sides of the rooms, contacting furniture with his body to find his way.
I used to let my dogs to our bed room on weekend mornings, which is upstairs. And Ben, remembering the weekend ritual, followed my other two dogs upstairs into the bedroom. He only tried to turn before the last step and hit his head on the bannister – it didn’t bother him much. The way donwstairs seemed to be more complicated for him. You must imagine, walking down a step is walking into emptiness for a blind dog. I went in front of him and gently guided him with my hand on his chest, making sure he did not fall.
Another obstacle are the sidewalks when we cross the road. I simply still forget that he doesn’t see the step down or up. But, we both are learning. It is important to stay focused on every step Ben makes. His world has changed drastically. So has mine.
Coming Monday, Ben has his vet appointment to decide when he will have his eyes extracted. I think, this will be one of the hardest decisions for me. Ben had almond shaped, lovely, kind brown eyes. Now, he keeps them mostly closed and seems to be uncomfortable as they look quite red and inflamed. His eyes need to be extracted because he does not blink and the risk of injuring them or of infection is quite high.
I am not an expert in glaucoma but I love my dog and would like to share my experience with other dog owners who might be in the same situation. Dogs are our closest pet companions since thousands of years. They help us with disabilities and deserve our help when they have to cope with ailment. Our society will be judged by how we treated our weakest – that includes animals with disabilities.