By Debbie Marks
Blind dogs see with their hearts. We’ve all heard it, but what does it mean? I look at my newest foster — a frightened and completely blind senior Yorkshire Terrier mix from one of the busiest shelters in the country. As I gently wash away the physical and emotional scars from his body and mind, a process which may never completely end, I have no doubt that he sees me just as clearly, maybe more so, than any sighted dog. He may not see my face, but he can read my heart.
MYTH: Blind dogs are unadoptable.
Reality: A blind dog is a dog first! He can be too big or too small, too rough or too laid back, too independent or too affectionate, but he’s a dog first and blind second. His blindness does not make him unadoptable. Blind dogs are highly adoptable and are just as sweet, friendly, loving, and gentle, as sighted dogs.
MYTH: Blind dogs are high-maintenance.
Reality: Blind dogs do not require extraordinary amounts of care, nor are they difficult to take care of, unless there is a medical or behavioral issue that is separate from their blindness. They likely require no more attention to detail than a sighted dog.
MYTH: Blind dogs are helpless and training a blind dog is more difficult.
Reality: Blind dogs are completely trainable. People forget that vision is not the primary sense in dogs. It may be for people, but not for dogs! The fact is dogs don’t need sighted eyes to live a normal, healthy and fun life. Blind dogs can even participate in agility training!
MYTH: Blind and blind-deaf dogs can’t enjoy life so it’s humane to put them down.
Reality: If they can smell, taste, hear your voice talking and feel you petting them, they’re enjoying life. They enjoy the same things sighted dogs do: walks, belly rubs, meal time, play time and more!
MYTH: You can’t move the furniture. They are always bumping into things and items get broken all the time.
Reality: Blind dogs map out their areas fairly quickly, sometimes in only one day. They can go up and down stairs, run through the yard, and even jump on the furniture to find the best place to nap! Of course, stairs and other areas where they may injure themselves should be gated.
MYTH: Blind dogs are boring and just sit around because they can’t see to run and play. They won’t play with toys because they can’t see them.
Reality: Blind dogs run and play just as much as sighted dogs. There are also scented toys or toys that jingle, so they can enjoy a wonderful game of “fetch”, too! We’ve had blind dogs steal toys from sighted dogs, and even invent games (throwing a toy across the room and sniffing it out!)
MYTH: Blind dogs are depressed and don’t do anything.
Reality: Blind dogs enjoy walks and going outside and going on car rides! Just like sighted dogs, they love being around people and other dogs. And just like any other dog, they’ll become your best friend! Blind dogs also benefit a lot from living with other dogs that can see. They use their partner as a guide to find their way around and strong bonds develop between them.
MYTH: Blind pets are no longer guardians of the home.
Reality: They still know when the mailman or anyone else is at the door and can let you know it. In fact, I have sighted and blind dogs in my house and my blind dog is the only one who alerts me to strangers nearby.
MYTH: Blind dogs cost more and/or blind dogs are not healthy.
Reality: Some blind dogs may cost more because they might need eye removal surgery or eye drops, but many dogs, blind or otherwise, have something for which they’ll eventually need medication or surgery. Blind dogs, like sighted dogs, run the range of health issues.
Blind pets really are just like their sighted counterparts!
Debbie Marks is a Reading Specialist at an elementary school in upstate New York. She has been a member of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance (BDRA)for about 1 1/2 years. She became involved with BDRA when her Bichon, Frosty became blind after his second eye had to be removed due to untreatable glaucoma. She was searching for guidance in their new situation and found BDRA online. She received the help she needed, believed in their mission and felt so strongly about helping others that she joined immediately!