Thursday, October 30, 2008

Things Molly and I are learning

Once before I had a dog go blind, but it was only a few weeks, and then she died from a brain tumor. She did rather well, but her blindness did not come on all at once like Molly's has. Together Molly and I have learned some ways to make life easier for us. She has taught me some, I have taught her some, and we still need to learn many more.

Some things are rather obvious. Never leave a door partway open. It must be open or closed, or Molly just might smash hard into it. Luckily I am pretty good about this one. I try to remember all doors are either open or they are closed, all the time. The hardest for me to remember is the closet door, but when she hears me open it, she generally gives it a wide berth, probably from memory.

Nothing on the floor should be moved. Nothing should be added to the floor. Nothing should be removed from the floor without making the change obvious to the pet. My carpet steamer was out when Molly went blind, and I still haven't put it away. I had to wait a while to even wind up the cord because she used the cord on the floor as a locator as to when to turn into the back foyer. My weakness is shoes - I have to remember to never leave shoes out on the floor. Seeing her trip over something that should not have been there is a good reminder. Guests must be reminded, also. I am grateful that I am not one to move furniture around on a regular basis. I tend to drop it down some place and it stays there forever.

I must wear a bell on my ankle in the house. Molly actually depends on this sound. She uses it to locate me, to follow me, and for peace of mind. When I take it off for a shower or to go to bed, she looks anxious until I put it back on. The drawback is I have become used to the sound and occasionally will wear it in public. I needed something quickly when I bought it, so I have a cat collar with an extra bell added to it. Not exactly the height of fashion, but Molly considers it a lifeline.

When Molly walks, I do my best to let her be her own guide. The poor girl went blind almost instantly, and her confidence took a nose dive. If I hold her tightly to me with a lead and don't let her bump into anything at all, what does she learn except dependence? So, walks are very slow, but she often leads us. She can take me across the street and down a bit to the mailbox, and lead me back, too. I just have to make sure she doesn't bump her nose hard on the mailbox post. I have always heard that blind dogs learn to walk on the edge of walls and furniture to learn their way around - Molly does not. She walks right down the center of the rooms. She goes slowly, and has a "blind walk" that involves lifting her front feet a little higher, and her eyes are widely open, just in case, and her head is down a little. It breaks my heart, but it's better than seeing her cower in a corner because she is afraid. Molly has been extremely brave.

Confidence cannot be reinforced enough. When we are outside, I talk to her constantly so she knows where I am, and recognizes my voice. Even at the end of a 4' lead, she can lose track of me if I am too quiet and she can't hear the bell. I stamp my feet when we reach the porch so she can hear the sound of my shoes on cement. I tell her "steps" when we get to them, and she finds them herself and climbs up the two stairs. On the way out, I count them out loud for her. When we go in, she sticks her nose just to the right of where the door opens, in the slight alcove made by the window next to the door. Smart dog; she figured that one out herself!

Meals can be hairy. Both dogs are chow hounds, and live for meals. I was already in the habit of feeding them several feet apart. Baby is not too proud to try to steal food from a blind dog. I once dropped a piece of food soon after Molly went blind - they fought over it - Molly won. When I set Molly's bowl down for a meal, I tap it until she finds it. Then I feed Baby.

For the first week, Molly still jumped on the bed by herself. After a while, she did lose confidence in that. I lift her on the bed now at night. She is very, very easily confused when tired, so it's a good thing that I wake up easily. If she stands up, I wake up - twice she has walked off the edge of the bed at night and fallen. Usually she feels for the edge, but when really tired, she just doesn't think. I have to, instead.

People tell me that other dogs will help a blind dog. Maybe other breeds will, but I haven't seen any assistance from Baby yet. The biggest issue is if Baby is already on the sofa and Molly jumps up and lands on Baby. They have fought about that a few times, but mostly now Baby just moves, or I try to encourage Molly to a vacant spot, or I tap Baby and say, "Baby," so she knows where Baby is.

A difficult thing is that Molly needs to know where she is at all times. This is a problem for a walk away from the house. She is leery of just trusting me to not whack her into a tree or a car. I understand this fear, but I sure hope by next summer when it warms up again that she can work up to our usual 2-mile a day walks. Baby is full of excess energy from lack of walking, and I sure do miss it, too. I cannot leave Molly home alone and walk Baby for a few miles - Molly would get depressed. She gets upset if I take Baby out alone to pee. Molly comes to the door and "watches" us through the storm door. It's awkward to walk a seeing dog and a blind dog at the same time, but I am sure we can get better at it with practice. Molly does best if another person and a dog come along with us, for some reason.

Molly has not become hostile or angry or aggressive. She loves seeing other people and dogs as much as ever. She still loves everyone in the world. When I was really sad one night because of the loss of her sight, it was Molly who comforted me.

I am more than willing to learn more tricks to help her. I haven't had much luck with scent, although I do believe she smells the carpet at times for "heavy traffic" areas to know where the middle of a room is. I know she uses throw rugs for location. We have a routine that I use for her to follow me through the kitchen and around the island to help her if she gets lost in the house, ending at the sofa in the living room.

I do not know how she does as well as she does. At first she would wake up in the morning, open her eyes, and put her head back down, depressed that she still could not see. She doesn't do that any more. She still gives me a look that says she sure wishes her vision could come back. I often wonder if she thinks everyone lost their vision at the same time. She probably wonders why she hears me turn lights on. She does not even see bright lights or anything at all, and it can never improve.

There was one night when Baby apparently had an allergic reaction and appeared to be blind for a couple of hours. It was hell here for that period of time, but eventually she was back to herself. She didn't even know who I was for a while. No blueberries or shrimp for Baby, I have learned that! She has had blueberries twice, and this reaction was only her second time to have it. I hate to think what a third time would do to her. She only had a couple each time. I cannot imagine TWO newly blind dogs at the same time!

Good news is that I did find a dog sitter for my weekend away in November. I also managed to migrate my journals from AOL to blogger myself, sort of. I had some expert advice from stephweiss, who was also a journaler at AOL. She pointed out to me that URLs with AOL are case sensitive. Also, I had been trying to use a dash between words - I thought blogger told me I had to do that, although it seemed pretty stupid. It finally worked. Both my former journal with this name and my private journal are now with blogger, but under different titles.

Now all I need to do is get my strength back before my weekend away. I think I can manage that. I do need to be evaluated for adrenal insufficiency. Molly has Addison's disease, which means her adrenals are entirely dead. This is the second time I will have my adrenal glands tested. I find this very odd. Adrenal glands are located just over the kidneys, if anyone wondered where they are. As far as I know, mine still put out adequate adrenaline, but that is not all they do. My electrolytes were highly umbalanced, and the adrenals control that. Overall, I feel pretty good, just tired.

I finally was able to read one journal and get up to date on it, please be patient with me while I try to catch up on the rest of you. I feel like I read a few dozen novels all at once, and I do not like getting behind on current chapters!


Rose said...

after all this you deserve a trip away! you take such great care of your your girls!

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

I'm surprised that the sniffer doesn't do more for Molly. My beagle is always sniffing. The vet once told me that as long as his nose works, we know he's feeling ok. Glad you got everything transferred and got a sitter for the dogs too ! 'On Ya'- ma

Remo said...

You come all the way over here and use PINK for a background? LOL

Maybe you should get a guide dog for your blind dog. That would be an interesting site. Does Molly have a little white cane with a red tip?

Just trying to lighten the mood...

Paula said...

Awww bless Molly's heart. Very interesting how you both have adapted. Wish John would remember to close the closet door. Even if you're not blind its dangerous at night.

IndigoSunMoon said...

I think you are just awesome for wearing a bell on your ankle or wherever you said you wore it, so that Molly could find you.
Girl, that is love!!!

Heather said...

Your babies are so lucky to have you. You take better care of them than anyone else that has babies.

I missed the dog sitter info until now...Have a fabulous time on your trip!


Missie said...

The cat collar on the ankle with a bell was a great idea for Molly! Give her some extra doggie kisses for me!

Janie said...

Hmmm great idea the cat collar. It sounds like Molly is doing great; but I think her teacher is doing great too. :) Sounds like you have thought of a lot of ways to help her. Hope you are able to get rested up soon. Have a great weekend. Janie

(Cassie) said...

I can just see your Molly now listening for the bell.
What a good mama you are to those babies..

Monica said...

Old Slo Mo lost his vision on his final days, I didn't think of a bell. I just kept talking to him so he knew I was there for him.

Hope you enjoy the trip and I'm glad I found you once again!