Differently Abled Pets – Blind or Deaf

Have you ever thought about adopting a blind or deaf dog and thought “that would just be too hard” or “I just don’t have it in me to take care of a disabled pet”? Or maybe you thought about it but just didn’t know enough to make an informed decision. Well, I didn’t know much either when I met an old, blind Shih-Tzu at the Shelter. The poor girl was terrified and completely shut down so I couldn’t leave her there (the dog warden knew me well and knew I wouldn’t after hearing about her either so she made sure I knew the little dog was there). All I had experience with was a one-eyed Shih-Tzu. And let me tell you, having only one eye definitely doesn’t slow a dog down!
We learned about blind dogs quickly after bringing Sweetie Pie home (and yes, the name fit her completely). I searched the internet and read as much as I could on how to help a blind dog acclimate to her surroundings. Keeping things all in the same place and not leaving things laying around was key for us. Thankfully we didn’t have stairs in the living space, and we were able to carry her down the steps into the yard. Most of the time she waited at the bottom of the steps for us to come get her when she was done with her business, but occasionally she would find her way up to them all on her own. Blind dogs learn their environment by smell and touch and they do great once they learn. Little Sweetie really didn’t run into very much when she was learning either. And that girl made the couch her throne. She only got up to use the potty or to get a drink. She may have been a little spoiled since I fed her on her throne. Having the pleasure of having Sweetie as a part of our family was a rewarding experience that was well worth the small sacrifices we made to keep her safe and secure.
Deaf dogs are just as resilient. I have met several and they are amazing too. Hand signals are lifesavers, and establishing a bond with the dog so that it keeps looking to you for direction is key.
There are many great articles online that can help you learn about blind or deaf dogs or dogs that are both blind and deaf – I recently met the sweetest little Shih-Tzu who was both deaf and blind; I was in love and would have brought her home if we didn’t already have a house full and foster even more. Here are just a couple that I found that explain things very well. Don’t be afraid or overwhelmed if you are thinking of adopting a differently-abled dog. Or if your beloved pet becomes deaf or blind later in life, don’t give up on them. There are many ways that you can help them make the transition with less stress on both of you!
Nicole Laber, Fospice Mom and Board Treasurer