Our Cairn Terrier rescue, Nora, went blind in July of 2015. At the time, she had just been diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. She was in such bad shape that it didn’t seem feasible to take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist in Pittsburgh, when we didn’t think she’d be with us for much longer.
A year later, Nora is still here. She still has some symptoms, such as panting and restlessness, but the Vetoryl medication has greatly improved her quality of life. The cost of the medication is manageable and so are the quarterly blood tests to determine if she needs dosage adjustments.
In April, since she was stable, and it looked like she wasn’t going anywhere, I decided to go ahead and take her to a veterinary ophthalmologist in Pittsburgh, recommended by our local veterinarian. I had been warned that with testing, the visit could cost $500 to $700. To me, it would be worth it to spend the money, if there were some pill she could take to make her un-blind.
So, one morning, Nora and I took a road trip to the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center. To get an appointment there, your vet has to send your pet’s records, and after they review them, they’ll let you know if they will see you.
To make a long story short, Nora’s visit cost only $180, because she is so blind, no testing was needed. The vet could see everything with her handheld instrument. We came home with some eye drops and some peace of mind. The best bit of information I was told was that Nora might live a normal life span with Cushing’s. I had been under the impression that she only had a couple of years–at the most.
Nora was diagnosed with SARD, sudden acquired retinal degeneration. There’s no pill she can take to cure her. Her retinas are destroyed. Although the exact cause is not known, it is sometimes accompanied by Cushing’s Disease.
The eye drops Nora takes are to prevent a build up of calcium and resulting ulcers. She will go back for a follow up visit in October.
Living with a blind dog isn’t so bad. Now that we’ve been at this for a year, she gets around pretty well, unless she’s tired and acting goofy. She still runs into things with some frequency, but more often, she navigates around the house, avoiding collisions with walls and furniture. When we go for walks, I connect her pretty closely to her sister, Nutmeg, who acts as her guide. Otherwise, Nora’s all over and makes me trip over her.
One of the funniest behaviors Nora has developed with her blindness is an attachment to a stuffed Christmas stocking, which we call, “Baby.” Nora’s baby has a gender. Baby is a she. Nora takes Baby to bed with her, and she looks for her in the morning. She sometimes insists on taking Baby on walks, and then accidentally drops her in the street. If Nora is looking for Baby, we know, because she sniffs and snorts around until we’re all searching. Baby gets pretty dirty and has to be washed frequently. There’s only so much grooming Nora can do. Baby seems to give Nora purpose, so we just go with it.
When Nora was developing her Cushing’s and her blindness, she was not easy to live with. She was very ornery and miserable. Now that her health has stabilized, even though she can’t see, she’s very happy, and she has the sweetest disposition. And now that she has her spiffy bandana, she’s a diva, too.
Ann Silverthorn writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres. She recently completed a biography of William E. Dimorier (1871-1951), a poet and educator, who dedicated his life to service and leadership. Several new projects are underway.