Ross, a twelve year old blind Terrier, and Silky, his “seeing dog” friend.

Ross is a rescue dog. He was originally found wandering in Newbridge, Co Kildare one Christmas Eve when he was taken in by the PAWS animal sanctuary. After Christmas, the Martin family visited the sanctuary to get a puppy, only to discover that they were too early for the post-Christmas glut of unwanted animals. While they were visiting, most of the rescue dogs were jumping up and down, bustling around the visitors, vying for attention. Ross was different. He was sitting back quietly on his own. He was already blind, due to serious eye disease, but at that stage, his eyes were still intact, so he looked fairly normal. The Martin family felt sorry for him and took him home with them that day.

As well as being blind, Ross had physical problems with his sightless eyes, and as time passed, they continued to deteriorate. First he developed cataracts, and then the cataracts dislocated inside each of his eyes, causing serious pain and discomfort. The Martins were faced with difficult choices: first one eye had to be surgically removed, and then, a year later, the other eye.

They knew that he’d look odd with no eyes, but they also realised that he couldn’t see anyway. As far as Ross was concerned, his eyes had become a painful nuisance. Ever since the operation was done, several years ago, Ross has been completely pain free and comfortable.

Ross is a calm, relaxed and friendly dog, and Caoimhe says that he’s “always happy”. Other dogs might whine when they’re on their own, or bark at other dogs, or get into trouble by chewing things in the house, but Ross has always been perfect.

His blindness has never bothered him at all; he’s adapted to the situation, using his senses of smell, hearing and touch. He walks from side to side, in a zig-zag, as if he’s learned that this is the best way to avoid full-on collisions with objects. At home, he knows the geography of the rooms, and as long as furniture isn’t moved, or objects aren’t left lying around, he can run around like a dog with normal sight. Caoimhe and her sisters knew from a young age that they had to keep the house tidy, putting toys and other objects away after they’d finished playing with them.

Ross has escaped from home on a couple of occasions; he still has the curious, exploring instincts of a terrier. There’s a big problem if he gets out, because he gets thoroughly lost, and he’s a liability in traffic. The Martins soon learned that they had to fence in their garden ultra-securely to keep Ross safe.

Silky arrived in the Martin household as a puppy, soon after Ross, and she’s become his “seeing eyes” when they’re out on walks. She trots along just in front of him, and if he falls behind, she comes back for him. He follows close behind her, and the routine allows him to be much more adventurous than if he was on his own.

Ross loves his walks, getting as excited about them beforehand as any dog does. He sniffs the air more than dogs with normal sight, and his favourite walk is the beach, where he can charge around with nothing at all to bump into.

Caoimhe was only four when Ross arrived, so she can barely remember life without him. To many people, he may look a little odd, but to Caoimhe, he’s just her own beloved dog.

Tips

  • Blind dogs can live contented, fulfilled lives
  • If eyes are non-functional and painful, it’s better that they’re surgically removed
  • A dog with no eyes is just like any other blind dog, apart from the unusual appearance

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