Love is blind when it comes to dogs – Red Bluff Daily News


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While pet adoptions may happen quickly for many unfortunately, for some animals, finding a permanent home might never be in their future. Sadly, pets considered to have any kind of special need are less likely to be adopted due to it. Such is the case, presently, at the Tehama County Animal Care Center in Red Bluff.
Gretel, Randall, and Jacob are dogs who have what are known as special needs. The first is that they are seniors whose guardian died, and they had the misfortune of not having someone else care for them. The second is that Jacob and Randall are, respectively, blind and partially blind. Gretel is sighted and helps the other two negotiate the world around them. Randall and Jacob are bonded, and the ideal situation would be that all three would stay together. They function well, are calm and very affectionate, and truly deserve a caring home in which to spend their remaining years. For those that might be interested, but are concerned or even put off by their handicap, I implore you to please read on.
Overall, blind dogs can lead very normal lives. On the list of things that are important to them you will find that family, treats and toys, like any other dog, are at the top of their lists. Their vision, or rather the lack of it, is truly in the no big deal category. Given time and some assistance, dogs compensate for vision loss by using their other senses such as hearing, smell, and touch, which we know is already quite acute in our canine friends.
For example, instead of using hand signals, verbal signals are more important. One needs to alert a blind dog with words like “up,” “down,” “danger” or “stop,” “sit,” “stay” to help him navigate inside and outside his world in the safest way possible. Use whatever works for you to keep the dog safe and more confident in its surroundings. Have conversations with him. The sound of your voice will assist him in figuring out where he is. Also use your voice to get his attention before any touching, so that he does not startle and become scared.
Keep a consistent routine. All dogs thrive on routine, whether they are blind or not.  Avoid moving food and water dishes around. Putting dishes in the same place every day will make life less stressful for everyone. For the same reason, do not rearrange furniture. Moving furniture around makes it harder for the dog to learn its surroundings. He will often memorize the layout of the home and can avoid bumping into objects if it does not change.
Toys, shoes, clothes, or other objects on the floor quickly become tripping hazards for a blind dog, so keep areas frequented by the animal free of clutter. Like planning for a baby that crawls, crawl around your home looking for hazards. Put corner protectors on sharp furniture and baby gates at the tops of stairs until the dog can safely maneuver staircases. In addition, there are several companies that manufacture circular halos that are worn on a harness or vest, which surround the blind dog’s head and face. They work by bumping into furniture or other obstructions before the dog does. One well known example is Muffin’s Halos (https://www.muffinshalo.com/).
Different surface textures can make it easier for a blind dog to orient himself in a house. Dogs sense changes in footing, just like us. This makes it easy to give non-visual cues for navigating around the home. For example, doormats can help the dog find a door. Gravel or wood chips along the perimeter of the yard can help prevent him from running into the fence. If you have hardwood floors, nonslip rugs or runners can act as guides throughout the house. Carpeting or rugs in one room feel different than tile in another room and this may help the dog learn its environment more readily.
Placing a small bell on the collars of other pets, and even on members of the household, helps the blind dog learn where everyone is in the house. Even pets who have not lost their sight enjoy background noise. Keeping a TV or radio on if you are away not only orients the dog, it also helps reduce feelings of loneliness. Toys that give treats, squeak, or make some sort of noise are especially rewarding for blind dogs. Remember, a blind dog is still a dog. Therefore, you can and should engage in active play with him. Why not play fetch? If you rub a dog treat or put a small drop of essential oil on a ball or other toy before throwing it and choose an open, safe area, there is no reason why he cannot play.
If you are thinking of adding a blind canine companion to your life, the following books can provide additional helpful information: “Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low-Vision Dogs” by Caroline D. Levin and “Blind Devotion: Enhancing the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired Dogs” by  Cathy Symons.
Blind dogs may not be able to see, but they can be as wonderful and as affectionate as any sighted canine. Gretel, Randall, and Jacob are the perfect examples. For them, love really is blind.
Ronnie Casey has been volunteering with the Tehama County Animal Care Center since relocating in 2011. A retired R.N., she strives to help animals in need within Tehama county. She can be reached at [email protected]
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