There are few people who have not heard of a seeing eye dog, specially trained dogs of a variety of breeds who help guide humans through everyday normal routines such as going for a walk, shopping, and even escorting people to their jobs. But there is the other side of the coin, which are dogs who are blind.
There are people who are born blind, who lose their sight through an accident, and who are the victims of any of a number of medical conditions, especially diabetes. Dogs lose their sight in very similar ways. One example is microphthalmia, a medical condition where the dog’s eyes fail to develop properly after birth. But the mother, unlike a human mother, will reject any runt in the litter who they sense will not develop normally. In the absence of human intervention, dogs who are the victims of microphthalmia are left to die.
But rescuing such dogs has not gained much media attention because, like most media topics, the preference is to present a normal world to normal people. What many people do not understand that for a person or dog who is born blind, that is their normal. They know no other way of life, and need a helping hand (or paw) to adjust to their darkened environment.
Most people do not know that blind dogs have a remarkable ability to adjust to their environment despite their blindness. One owner of a rescued blind dog related that after some early care their completely blind dog was able to run and play with sighted dogs as if he had never been blind. This is quite remarkable and demonstrates the resilience animals have to not only to adjust to their environments, but also how to survive.
There are groups and organizations, albeit far fewer than advocates for blind dogs hope for, that are creating assistive devices that help the dogs achieve a greater sense of independence. One such device is the Muffin Halo, which is strapped on to the dog and extends beyond the length and height of the dog. When the dog comes near an object or obstacle that they will have to maneuver around, the Muffin Halo will get there before the dog and alert them to its presence.
One thing owners of blind dogs urge is not to overprotect them lest they become too dependent on the human and fail to utilize their natural instincts to adjust to their surroundings. While they do need a bit of help, they do not need care in the sense of taking care of a blind human connotes. A rule of thumb is to never treat a blind dog like a blind dog, according to one blind dog owner.
If you are considering becoming an active advocate for blind or visually impaired dogs, there are organizations who will help get you on the road to either adopt or rescue one. What makes many potential owners uncomfortable is the reality of looking into your best friend’s eyes and knowing they cannot actually see you. But the bond between dogs and humans goes far beyond sight, and there is nothing comparable to receiving the affection from a loyal friend who literally must trust and believe what he cannot see.
For many owners and advocates of blind dogs, one of the most difficult things for people to do is learn more about their care and potential. It is fair to say that there is a certain amount of trepidation and nervousness when trying to talk to a blind dog owner, let alone of crossing the bridge of actually taking one home with them. But these dogs, like people, usually only want a chance to live as normal a life as possible given their disability. There are no known seeing eye dogs for blind dogs, which says a lot about the ability of the dog to accept their limitations and do the best they can.
All breeds and varieties of dogs give us pleasure, comfort, affection, and loyalty while not asking for anything in return. These same attributes are available through visually challenged dogs, and use their other senses to remain the relatively low maintenance creatures they are. If a dog has ever rescued you physically or emotionally, you have the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way by adopting these oft neglected dogs.