Category Archives: Living with a blind dog

Living with a Blind Dog – new puppies have arrived.

It has been a while and a lot has happened.

Ben finally seems to have adjusted to his blindness. He is a cheerful, gentle little follower and brightens up our days.  His mate for 9 years, our Dina, sadly had to be put down on the 30th of May 2016, due to cancer which had been undetected and was in the final stage. Her lungs were drowned in fluids and we had no choice other than to end her suffering. Nonetheless, it was a terrible decision to make and a harrowing feeling of guilt still tortures us. We miss her very much and all the places we had been going together remind us every day of her.

For a few days, Ben seemed to be looking for her in the house. When I fed him and Molly, her daughter who had never left her side during the last few agonising days, didn’t eat for a day and seemed to be lost on walks. They went to her little basket and none of them made an attempt to sit or lie in it even though, while she was alive, there  often had been a competition of who could snatch whose bed or toys!

I am sure, they both sensed our sadness which led them to show a quiet solidarity to our tears. It is amazing how dogs mirror the feelings and emotions of their owners and try to comfort in their own doggy-ways, like sitting quietly looking at us and trying to be good and please even more than in the usual Cocker Spaniel ways. But, as it is, dogs are living in the moment and as soon as we went back to our daily routine, they seemed to adjust to our life as it was before Dina had left us. We don’t know if their memories work similar to ours but, whenever we remember Dina and mention her name, Ben and Molly seem to look in expectation that she is coming into the door or around the corner. Is it our imagination? Who is to say?

A few days before Dina went over the rainbow bridge, we had our Molly mated with a little poodle. A coincidence which helped us to deal with our grief. A grandchild of Dina and, of course, we planned at once to keep one of the puppies.

Molly had an uneventful pregnancy. She is half-worker and was active throughout her pregnancy, running and jumping up and down the settee as ever. It was me who had a problem, though. With our Dina, we had 3 litters of puppies during her life time, from one of which we had kept our Molly. Dina was a reliable dog, who I had bonded with from the first day in a special way. She was wise. She was gentle. Calm. Highly intelligent and a wonderful caring mother to her pups. Molly is completely different to her – or so I thought. A strange feeling of some kind of jealousy crept into my mind. Whatever Molly did or how ever she behaved, I compared her to my Dina. Molly could do nothing right to live up to my expectation. In hindsight, I think, I was re-living my wonderful experience with Dina and there was no room for Molly to help me with my grief.

I didn’t trust her to be a mum to her pups like Dina. It was me, not Molly, who kindled this ill-feeling about her pregnancy and whelping. I kept saying: ‘She can’t do it like Dina did’, whenever she jumped around, little selfish girl. Several times we went to the vet’s because I thought there was something wrong with her. When a scan revealed she only had 2 to 3 pups, I said to my Eric ‘See, she’s not like Dina. Dina had 10 pups and did so well’. How irrational was my behaviour!

Close to her whelping day we had a terrible heat wave in East Anglia, over 30 degrees C which, of course, made her panting frantically, dribbling saliva, throwing up and whining. I started to panic and on her due day took her to the vet’s again. Even with my experience with a whelping dam, I’d lost all trust in Molly and felt left out by her at the same time. The vet bills exceeded our savings, meanwhile, and they were totally unnecessary in hindsight. All was ok.

After two sleepless nights during the heat wave, on the night after yet another visit to the emergency vet’s, I went to bed and left my Eric to watch over her, even though the vet said confidently that on this night the whelping had started and she would now go into stage II. Whatever devil was riding me, I don’t know.

At 7 o’clock in the morning, my Eric woke me up saying: “Molly did so well. I completely kept in the background while she delivered, cleaned and suckled three little Cockapoos. They are beautiful!”  I turned to the other side and said,  ‘I am tired. I’ll be down in a minute’. How could I do that? I, a great dog lover, sleeping with Dina and her babies in a pen, studying their behaviour, overwhelmed by the experience of my dogs giving birth to new little bundles of joy? A mother of fourchildren myself, a grandmother to 12 grandchildren, a woman who believes in the circle of life and worshipping the never ending cycle of life – how could I so cold heartedly neglect my Molly? How could I have excluded myself of this precious moment which so often had given me the greatest happiness, the joy of life itself? I have no explanation other than I had not yet come to terms with the loss of my Dina. Grieving her death had kept me from taking the next step to welcome new puppies into my life.

Ben, on the other hand, the blind old boy, showed more compassion and excitement over the new arrivals. He stayed in the kitchen next to the room where Molly was whelping, peeping into the door whenever the little puppy voices squealed. He was there, not directly with Molly but, ever since the moment she had the puppies, taking part in his doggy way, exactly knowing his place in this event.

During the next days, whenever I wanted to have a look at the puppies, Molly growled and snarled at me. She kept me from taking the puppies up to look which gender they are. She growled even when I only took a few steps towards her whelping box. Dina never had behaved like this. From the moment she went into labour until the puppies were weaned, I was close to her,  together we shared and lived the experience as intense as possible.

I started to hand-feed Molly with chicken, gave her water. She lets me hand-feed her but still, I am not allowed to touch her puppies. I will have to give her time, I know, I will have to give myself time to adjust and get on with it and enjoy.

As I’ve said before, dogs live in the moment and they mirror our behaviour to the dot. It was action from me and re-action from my dog (I don’t like to use the the word ‘bitch’).

We are a pack, I am sure of that but, my position had changed from the leader to a minor, failing member at the moment when I had decided to doubt Molly’s instinct abilities.

I, the ‘know-it-all’, the woman who had grown up with dogs and never has been without dogs throughout life. I, who have a friend living with and studying wolves and their pack behaviour. I had followed my own human feelings,  had given in to my human way of grief. I am not feeling guilty about it. I am the human member of my pack. Molly has shown me this from the moment I’d turned away from her. Only, I didn’t understand. She didn’t understand. Now I have to earn my position from scratch with her, my position of her human leader whom she can trust with her life and that of her whelps. Ben never had lost his position in the pack, it was me who failed. The human member of the great pack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BEN – Living with a blind dog

It’s been a while since I’ve continued our story with Ben.

We are slowly all getting used to the situation. As far as it is possible to look at your beloved pet thinking, he never sees sun light again on our walks. It is spring now and how much did he always enjoy being out in the fields!

It seems very strange that most of the problems he has, are inside the house and in the garden. He still bumps into everything, especially when he is excited. His position in the pack surely is the lowest now. My two Cocker Spaniel girls have taken over and sometimes are even ‘bullying’ him. He doesn’t come into the living room any more in the evenings when we are watching tv or are reading. I’ve tried many times to lead him gently into the living room, even offered him his old place on the sofa next to me. The girls wouldn’t have it! They growl at him and when I tell them off (I am still the pack leader, no matter how hard they sometimes try to get this position as well) they simply stare at Ben. He cannot see their body langeuage but somehow he can feel the tension, I think.

In the kitchen, he has a large cushioned basket. Whenever I put his toys into it, one of the girls snatches it away into her own basket. So, his basket is bare of toys, which he used to love and never got tired of carrying them around and offering them to us. But, he never defends his toys to the girls. At night, his favourite place is now next to the garden door, for whatever reason. When he walks, he keeps mostly to the sides of the walls and the kitchen cabinets.

I am sure, he is still enjoying the walks, though. The other day, he was rolling in the freshly cut meadows and ran, yes he ran! I don’t understand why he is not using his nose much to track us. I always have to keep an eye on him because sometimes, he seems confused about the direction we are walking in. I keep talking to him on walks, calling him whenever he goes the wrong way. I’m not a very talkative person and often forget that Ben can’t see when I am pointing outside at something or when going about my housework. The other day I said: ‘Look Ben! A birdie!’ He looked puzzled trying eagerly to please me and to find the birds to flush them. I felt really sorry for him.

One thing I’ve noticed is, when we are outside, Molly and Dina are stopping at whatever they’re doing, looking at Ben, who is too slow now to run with them like before. I know, dogs don’t feel pity like human beings but, they feel he still is one of the pack and we have to keep together outside.

Molly is in heat now, and we decided to have 1 litter of puppies from her and keep one of them. Ben has always been great with puppies. Years ago, when we had a litter from Dina, he lay all day in the garden in front of their box guarding them. Even when they grabbed his tail with their little gritter teeth, he never complained.

I am so looking forward to the puppies. It will cheer us all up, I think. Living with a blind dog is heart wrenching for me. Am I selfish? I think, yes. I have been living with dogs all my life. In fact, they are my life. I am not working any more and my children are all married and have their own families. My family are my dogs. They always will be. People who never had a dog would not understand.

 

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Ben – living with a blind dog

Slowly, slowly Ben – and I for that matter- are adjusting to this big change in our everyday life.

We have decided for now not to get Ben’s eyes extracted. We will have to face that when there is no other choice, which means if Ben is suffering, in pain or other medical reasons which might occur.  At the moment, Ben is enjoying his walks in the fields which he is used to since he was a puppy. He is socialising with many of his friends and if I meet people who don’t know that my dog is blind, I let them know and the dogs can enjoy getting to know each other. Occasionally, we have the big bouncy dog running towards us but, so far, there never was a problem. I think, dogs who have grown up in an appropriate, good environment, don’t have problems with Ben’s blindness. Mostly, it is how dog owners react and influence their dog’s behaviour in case the hackles go up. But, as I’ve said,  up until now we only had good experiences outdoors.

Indoors, however, there seem to be more problems. My two girls, Dinah (8) who grew up with Ben, and Molly, her four year old daughter, seem not to be as tolerant as I would have expected. They claim more and more space in the house. At night, when we are in our living room, the girls claim the sofa and chair and growl at him as soon as he wants to come in. The other day, I caught Molly, the bold one, snatching his bone from underneath his nose. Outside, both girls are very protective of him when another dog approaches but, in the house, it’s a different story.

I am not quite sure yet how to react. I take his side, get the bone back but he doesn’t take it back any more. I carry him onto the sofa next to me, but he feels uncomfortable and makes his way back,  after seconds, into the kitchen to his corner, bumping against walls, chairs and cabinets. The behaviour of the two girls seem to have more effect on him than my ‘protecting’ him. So, I decided to just stand back and watch how things are developing. As a human (and a mother) I tend to protect him, give him his way, guide him. Slowly I doubt that this is the right way. Dogs, I think, are quite capable of taking care of themselves in any given situation. Maybe I have complicated the whole matter by interfering too much from my human point of view.

Since I am sending this blog out, I’ve had many helpful responses and most dog-friends assure me that dogs do adjust to their blindness, some of them so much that it is hard to reckognise that they are blind. In Ben’s case it is very slow going. Each dog is different. Ben has become a very timid, insecure, helpless dog. It breaks my heart. I try not to show him my pity but dogs sense whatever you are feeling, don’t they? If only my two bitches would support me more but they seem taking  more and more advantage of their big brother.

If you have any kind of advise, I’d appreciate your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

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Ben – living with a blind dog

Those who are following my blog already know that we have cancelled the eye extraction appointment of Ben. I am not so sure any more that this really has to be as Ben seems fine at the moment. He is not suffering like before he went blind and was on eye drops. He waggs his tail, enjoys his walks and eats his food. He communicates with us like before he went blind several weeks ago.

He needs more cuddles and always has the need to be ‘in touch’ with us, which we try to cooperate with as much as possible. The only thing, which is hard for us, is that he is barking a lot more than before he fell blind. In the park it seems he wants to let everybody know he is there and barks at all and everything and there is no way of stopping him, no matter how much I try to reassure him, touch him and talk to him. We try to let him socialise as much as possible. I am thankful to all dog owners who make that possible. Only few were reluctant, thinkig a blind dog would start biting as soon as he is startled.

I am quite sure he will not turn vicious because we take all precautioins and are always at his side. When nothing is in sight which could be dangerous for him, we let him off the lead. I always thought, Cocker Spaniels are good sniffers but Ben seems to orientate himself much more by our voice and noises than following us by sniffing. When he does not hear us, he trails off in a wrong direction.

Before Ben fell blind, he was trained very well which is lucky. First call, he comes back into our direction. Nonetheless, we constantly have to keep an eye on him in case some kind of obstacle is in his way which normally would not be a problem. We are taking him to a vast sports ground where many other dog walkers are taking their dogs when no games are on.(And everybody is a very responsible dog owner in picking up the poo as nobody wants to risk beig told off to walk their dogs there, obviously!)

In the house, he seems to have adjusted quite well. He always walks along the walls, even the stairs seem to be ok. I usually walk in front of him, touching his chest so he knows he wouldn’t fall; but, unfortunately, accidents happen. Again, he made it around the landing towards the stairs but didn’t realise he already was on the first step, so he stumbled 2 steps down. I watched him and didn’t say anything because he has to learn to find his way. He stopped, gathered himself and very carefully managed to walk down all the way (13 steps). Dogs are amazing in adjusting to difficult circumstances. We can only learn from them! Of course, I praised and cuddled him and he felt how proud I was of him.

If anybody has information on how inevitable an eye extraction is in case of glaucoma, please let me know. I am on facebook and twitter and, of course, here. Comments are greatly appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ben – living with a blind dog

Today, one of my other Spaniels, had a go at my blind Ben for the first time since the onset of his blindness.

Each of my 3 Cocker Spaniels have their places in two corners of my kitchen. In the sitting room at night, they sometimes jump up on a free chair and cuddle up next to one of us while watching tv. None of them has ever been possessive of a place, a blanket or a chair; they never even have been possessive about their food as each one knows which bowl is theirs.

Today, our Molly watched Ben slowly moving along the kitchen cabinets towards his bed. I was washing dishes but had the feeling something was going to happen. As I said, my dogs never showed any sign of any kind of ggression, not to each other or other dogs or humans. But at this moment, there was something tense in the air; so, while Ben slowly was approaching his bed, Molly suddenly ran past him, growling, claiming the place for herself by sitting on his pillow, curling her lip. Poor Ben could not see her facial expression but he certainly heard her growling. His reaction was standing still, moving his head slightly away from Molly, just like a seeing dog would have done, to show submission.

In one of my earlier blog posts I have already mentioned that the greatest fear is that a blind dog turns aggressive. In this case, he showed good sense and was his usual self, the aggression was coming from my other dog, 4 year old Molly, against him.

What did I do, the Mummy that I am…. I told Molly off. I reacted human.

She accepted at once, left Ben to his place, where he sat down looking into nothingness, as if nothing had ever happened. In my last post, I already mentioned that Molly snatched a treat away from him. Are these all signs that the pack order is changing or do I have to be worried? My greatest fear at the moment is that outside on our walks another dog, like a testosterone driven bull terrier or Rottweiler (don’t laugh, there are a lot around where we are walking) or any other kind of dog who has aggression problems, might turn on Ben and bite. 

These are all aspects I have to look at now that Ben is blind. He still has to come to terms with his instincts and learning how to cope. So do I.

I chose to make my experience living with a blind dog public. I know that dog owners who love and care for their dogs can understand my insecurity and fears and I appreciate comments of support or tips on how to deal with the situation. I never thought that one of my Cocker Spaniels would get blind but, that is one of life’s surprises thrown at us unexpectedly.

 

 

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Ben – Living With A Blind Dog

Tomorrow would have been our appointment at the vet’s clinik for Ben’s eye extraction. We had to cancel, as I have wormed all three dogs yesterday and poor Ben was throwing up all over the kitchen floor during the night, not feeling well at all. Besides that, I had a bad flu over the last 2 weeks and really didn’t feel fit and up to the task of comforting and caring for my dog after such a major operation.

Ben is doing well, so far. Outside in the fields, he seems to manage his blindness better than inside of the house, which puzzles me. I would have thought, the other way around.  We had two incidents so far, where I had to tell other dog owners to please take control over their very bouncy, barking dogs, running in circles around Ben which resulted in our Molly being overprotective and trying to frantically bark the other dog away.  Chaos, mayhem. But, fortunately, the dog owners reacted very sensible and understanding and at the end a heartfelt hug for me and a hug for Ben and mouthy Molly settled the pandemonium.

Ben has always been an extremely obedient, following kind of dog. One call, and he is on track and finds the direction to follow me. I have the feeling that at the moment his ears are working much better than his nose. Cocker Spaniels are well known for their sniffing and tracking and Ben, of course, still is following those instincts. As a result, he sometimes gets too far away from me and stops, looking panicked. As soon as I call out his name and speak to him, he follows my voice.

In the house, I have noticed a slight change in the behaviour of my other two dogs. When I open the door to let them into the garden, the other two dogs, Molly and Dina, are pushing him out of the way, jumping over him to get out because he now is so much slower than they are. Today, when giving them treats, Molly snatched Ben’s treat away before he could get to it. Dina even tried to growl him away from his food bowl and I interfered. This is quite irritating because I know, there are different rules in the dog-world from ours. Still, it pains me to see how my once so proud Ben is being pushed out of the way and has to struggle to be respected.  Has the pack order changed with Ben’s blindness? Do I have to, as the pack leader, fight for his position and welfare? Or do I have to, according to the laws of nature, let them sort it out?  I’m not quite sure yet.

So far, I have to speak more to Ben to give him security so that he can follow and orientate himself.

He always is wagging his tail, Blinddog his old self most of the times, joyful, affectionate and gentle. I have heard that some dogs become aggressive out of fear for not seeing; I would like to do my best to avoid that.

My day-to-day life has changed much since Ben fell blind. I always have to have an eye on him, talk to him, touch him more than before. I have to help him in and out of the car, onto the chair, up the stairs and down (he is 22 kg :). I have to watch other dogs in the field as he is not able to read their body language and might react to his disadvantage. My social life has changed, because I don’t want to leave him alone at home any more. I have to reassure him, support him, help him.  Ben has been my companion, my comrade, for 9 years, day in, day out. He was fun and joy and comfort. I don’t feel him a burden now, I rather think, Ben shows me another side of life. All too often, we humans tend to use animals for our own purposes. Especially dogs. There is much more to the relationship between humans and animals; I am finding that out right now. We all are living in one world; kindness and devotion, love, has to work both ways. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Night Fell Over Ben – living with a blind dog

Blinddog

After a walk in the wet fields, today we went for our scheduled vet appointment with Ben.

The walk was nice, only Ben bumped into a tree whilst following me – I still have to get used to being his eyes. When another dog ran up to us (we know the owner and his dog), our Molly came sprinting from the other side of the field to bark the poor dog off. She does that lately; it looks as if she wants to protect Ben from other dogs. We talked to the dogs and the owner of the other dog gave Ben a cuddle. It feels really good when other dog owners show their support.

After the walk, we decided to take all three dogs together to the vet as they are a pck and I think, Ben feels a lot less irritated when we continue with a normal routine.

We didn’t have to wait long and when we saw our vet, who knows Ben from puppy age on, we had a long talk about the procedure of removing Ben’s eyes, all the pros and cons and the vet really took his time to explain everything to us. Ben is 9 years old now and it is a major operation with quite a long anaesthesia which bears risks for him. We decided on Wednesday, the 3rd of February at 8 o’clock. As the operation costs pprox. £800, we have the option of paying in 4 monthly rates, which really helps us. Alternatively, we could have one eye reoved and some weeks later the second one; I decided to do it in one session as operating twice would bear the risk of anaesthesia twice.

To be honest, I am upset about the rules of pet insurances not to pay in cases of inherited diseases. When we bought Ben nine years ago, we had no idea about glaucoma in Spaniels and the breeder obviously didn’t care to have his puppies eye checked. I strongly advise every new dog owner to invest thoroughly about inherited diseases because it could prevent a lot of suffering for the pet and for the owner. Not even mentioning the costs and life long care, which really is secondary.

Ben is on pain killers at the moment because glaucoma is painful and at night, Ben usually is whimpering and howling which tells me he is not comfortable.

Looking at our situation now, I think we slowly are getting used to it. Ben needs more physical contact and cuddles and i always have to be alert where I am going, not to leave cupboard doors open and not to move chairs etc from their usual place. Everything with sharp edges in the house and the garden has to go because the risk of injury is quite high at this stage. Just stepping off the sidewalk to cross the road needs to be practised if your dog is not to stumble and get hurt. Ben is a brave and strong dog; together we are learning to cope with his blindness. When there is a step, I usually give a command like ‘up’ or ‘down’ and guide him with my hand on his chest. It all needs patience and time.  To live and care for a blind dog is a challenge but it can be mastered if you love your pet. For us, there never occurred the question of putting him down.  This option had been proposed to us several times by (I’m sure) ‘well’ meaning fellow humans. A blind dog does not suffer unless he is in pain. He adjusts and takes life on the chin.

 

 

 

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