Zoe, March, 2000
Zoe's rescuers, a couple from Georgia, think somebody may have left her at the pond behind their house. The approximately 12 week old yellow girl was discovered by their back door, barking and crying. The rescuers tried to find her owner but no luck. They noticed that something was wrong with the puppy's eyes and took her to a vet for evaluation. The vet noticed that Zoe's sight was very limited and he thought she may have cataracts. He recommended that Zoe be seen by a specialist. Zoe's rescuers knew they could not take care of her if she needed surgery; they both work full time. They contacted Georgia Labrador Rescue to help them find a home for their little rescued Lab - and possibly a foster home to take care of her in case she needed surgery. A volunteer with Georgia Labrador Rescue suggested they contact LABMED for financial assistance.
Zoe's rescuers talked to several specialists trying to find one who would offer a rescue discount. Zoe was a normal, healthy puppy but, because of her eye problem, would run into things often. LABMED decided to pay for the diagnostic visit and Zoe went to get her eyes checked.
The ophthalmologist determined that Zoe's eyeballs were underdeveloped - too small for her size and age. Retinal function was questionable and would have to be determined with yet another test but the specialist did not think that Zoe's sight could be improved.
Shortly after the eye test, Zoe found new foster parents. They took her to their vet for a routine visit. This vet also noticed that her eyes were unusually small and he suspected that Zoe's dam might have had Parvo while pregnant. He also thought that Zoe was part Lab and part Samoyed. Like the specialist, this vet did not think that surgery would help; he also worried that if this condition was Parvo related, Zoe might have heart problems as well. He consulted another ophthalmic specialist and after some discussion the foster parents decided that Zoe would not benefit from further tests or treatment.
They decided to keep Zoe though. Like most dogs that are blind or have severely limited sight from birth, she did not appear to be handicapped by her limitation. Zoe adapted quickly to her new surroundings; her foster mom described her as a loving and fearless dog.
But there were problems: Zoe got along great with the Lab but the other three dogs in the household would growl whenever Zoe came near and Zoe's new parents were considering finding a new home for her to prevent more serious conflict.
But LABMED was able to help again. One of our board members is very knowledgeable about blind dogs and she explained that blind dogs tend to have trouble with dominant dogs: "Many of the subtle dominant signals involve sight -- i.e. pricked ears, forward stance, staring, raised hair on the back. Dogs who see these automatically do submissive things such as turn their heads away, put their heads down, sometimes even roll over and display their bellies. Of course blind dogs don't see these signals and then don't display any submission. This forces the dominant dog into a more flagrant display of dominance, such as growling, attacking, etc."
Understanding why there was a problem helped Zoe's parents to handle the situation. They continue to learn about the characteristics of sight impaired dogs and the other dogs have begun to accept Zoe - she now is a permanent member of the family.
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