Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Blind Dogs are Beautiful

We interviewed quite a few people about their experiences with our September Rescue of the Month, Blind Dog Rescue Alliance, and just had to share this woman's story. Debbie has fostered and rescued dogs that are blind, deaf, injured, and have medical conditions, but she thinks they are the most beautiful dogs in the world. Thank you, Debbie, for viewing the world from such a beautiful perspective.

Interview with Animal Wellness Magazine:

            AW: Why did you adopt blind dogs?

About three years ago, my senior Bichon had to have his second eye removed due to uncontrollable and painful glaucoma.  It was a tough adjustment for him and I did a lot of research to try to help him as best I could.  I had no idea what to do and what not to do!  The Blind Dog Rescue Alliance was very helpful and caring and I knew right away I wanted to be a volunteer.  And shortly after that, I fostered and adopted my first blind dog – and have only adopted blind dogs ever since (the blind seniors have my heart)!                                    

AW. What are the challenges for each of your dogs?

Currently, I have three adopted blind dogs, and have one forever foster.  One of the blind dogs and my foster are also deaf.  In addition to blindness, each is a senior who faces other medical issues.   I had to think about this question for a bit because my dogs have been here for a while and each knows “the lay of the land”.  But of course, they had to learn my home and yard when they first came.  As my seniors do not go for long walks, we did not experience any challenges there, although I do like the two who can hear to learn vocabulary such as “stop” and “forward”.  My blind Schnauzer had a difficult time with housebreaking (due to his history and not his blindness) and learning how to go down the stairs. Going UP is much easier!  But going down requires a dog to step off into space, and that is scary.

AW:   Do you use anything in particular to help with anxiety?

My current dogs are quite easy going.  With the Bichon I mentioned earlier, I used a Thundershirt and few different types of medication. 

AW:  Do you use any special training techniques?

I do try to teach vocabulary like “stop” for an emergency word – meaning the dog needs to stop right away as there may be a hole or another obstacle in his path.  I also try to teach “up” and “down” for steps and curbs, and “forward” for when we are walking.

AW: How do you ask people to approach your dogs?

I ask people to hold out their hand so my dogs can smell them first.  No different than meeting a sighted dog.  I also tell them they can talk to my dog if they want!  I talk to them all the time!

AW: Please provide a brief background about your dogs and their history.

Watson is a Schnauzer from the Tampa, FL shelter.  He was rescued on the day he was to be euthanized.  He was likely a backyard breeder dog and was turned into the shelter as a “stray”.  Watson is completely blind due to SARDS, is hypothyroid, has Schnauzer Comedo Syndrome, and an adrenal disorder.  He’s got a round belly, very thin hair, and his back gets pimples, but boy, he is the most handsome fellow to me.  And he is the sweetest, most affectionate and loving boy in my house! Watson goes to rescue events to spread the word about blind dogs and all they can do, and loves to meet lots of people!  I've included a picture of Watson at a rescue event.

Sae is a Yorkie mix who was rescued from the Manhattan shelter.  We also don’t know much of Sae’s history.  He is completely blind, almost completely deaf, and has a history of pancreatitis.  He also has a mass on his spleen that my vet and I are monitoring.  Sae was very timid when he first came, and was afraid to leave the exercise pen.  He did not like to be held or touched.  Sae is very careful, and moves very slowly.  He reminds me of someone’s very old grandfather, shuffling around. Sae has come a long way in the year he’s been here.  He’s such a careful and gentle boy!  In fact, I’ve brought Sae to school with me to help me introduce a book about a blind mountain climber.  We have a blind student at school who is afraid of dogs, and she loved to pet Sae during his visit.  It was a wonderful moment.  I've included a picture of Sae at school, resting in my classroom.

Tequila (Tiki) is a completely blind Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix.  He lived with an owner who was unable to keep him due to a health issue.  Tiki also has stomach issues and is on medication.  Tiki is a smaller fellow who used to love going to rescue events and meeting people.  As he’s aged, he prefers to stay home.  Tiki loves to be held and cuddled and will sit in my lap while I’m working on the computer.  He also dances for his food and will go up on his hind legs to be picked up.  He loves to be held in my arms like a baby!  Tiki is the smartest one in the house and even knows a few tricks!  

Unfortunately, people often believe that blind dogs can’t do anything (I’ve even had someone ask me if my dog could walk because he was blind) and don’t understand what a wonderful quality of life blind dogs can and do have, so I thought I’d share some of the things that blind dogs can do!    

In addition to what I mentioned above, Watson loves squeaky toys and is almost never without one.  His favorite thing to do is flip them all over the place and pounce on them, and while he may take a few seconds to find them, he always does!  He also chases the cats and runs in the yard. 

Sae enjoys coming to school with me, and is gentle and kind with all of the students he meets.  The best moment was the one I’ve already mentioned above (when the blind student who is afraid of dogs reached out to pet him).  We also have a volunteer whose blind dog goes to the library to listen to students read, and another volunteer whose blind dog is a certified therapy dog.

Leo, my blind and deaf forever foster, will be 18 in January and will be here one year on 9/17.  He is unstoppable!  He loves boxes and books and leaves and twigs and weeds and tearing my bills and pulling magnets off the fridge and knocking over the garbage ….  And I have to watch him like a hawk!  He can find the only crumb on the floor, and if I put a box down for 30 seconds, he’ll find it.  I’ve even had to empty the bottom shelves in the bookcases!  He even has his own Facebook page and with almost 500 fans! 

Animal Wellness Magazine is donating 40% of subscription sales to Blind Dog Rescue Alliance when you subscribe using promo code AWA149. For a great magazine and to donate Subscribe Here.


  1. How beautiful are each of these special dogs and what a beautiful special person. It is so clear they enjoy a wonderful quality of life with Debbie! Such an inspiring article! Thank you!

  2. What a beautiful story about my amazing cousin, Debbie. She is such an inspiration, and those loveable dogs are so lucky to have Debbie. It really makes you think that nothing is impossible. I can't wait to meet her other adorable doggies who I have not yet met. I'm sending them lots of love xoxo.