25 April 2011

Through a Guide's Eyes-- Literally

Recently I have been getting some nagging in my gut-- this is the kind no guide dog user wants to acknowledge. The kind that you feel like if you ignore it, it will go away. Unfortunately it is not going away-- not from my gut, and not from life either.

Thane is due for his re-check at the eye vet. He is four years old and as such, this is the time when she can either clear him of the last genetic eye disease to impact his breed, or acknowledge its presence.

I am trying to tell myself that the nag in my gut is just nervous energy about the unknown in our life right now, but reality is that something is different. Different than it was during the winter rains. Different than it was last spring, summer, or fall. If this *different* was only noticeable outdoors as we walked our communities streets that are beginning to come out of hibernation-- coming alive again, I'd completely chock it up to a focus issue due to that new life.

That is not the case though. It happens at home when he is doing things. Sometimes he can't see a toy that is right in front of him but in a shadowy or darkened location. Sometimes I will throw the ball and he has no idea whatsoever that its been thrown-- checks me out for where I hid it. Sometimes he runs so hard into walls, that I am surprised he was not knocked out. Of course this latter he has done a bit all of our life together, but the frequency and severity has increased almost ten fold over the past couple of months.

Granted, Thane is an intense Border Collie when it comes to his toys-- especially his balls. This all said, as a guide dog at my side who I trust in implicitly, I can not ignore my gut nor the little subtleties that placed that *nag* in it in the first place. To do so would be to say that neither my nor his safety out there matters. It would be putting the desire to keep working with him as my partner above his well being. I can not, nor will I stoop to such a level.

The testing for other service animal teams will be free in May. The program though is still not willing to look at ways in which an owner trained team can be proven as legit. As a result, for Thane it is not a benefit we can take advantage of. I had someone tell me that if it were their situation, they would not do it unless the benefit was provided to them. I was appalled! Here, my guide dog could very well have something going on. No, it may not be his eyes, but then it very much might be. As a friend to someone who had a service dog lose an eye to glaucoma, I know the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.

With my previous service dog Chimette, I was naive. I had no idea we had the ability to just take him to an eye vet and be sure his eyes were healthy enough for him to be my guide. When I questioned my now former vet about his eyesight, his response was that I would know when he could not see! PARDON ME! He knew that Met was working as my guide and yet, he acted so callously when HE KNEW that there was an eye vet in our county. I will never act so naively when it comes to Thane's eyes.

It is my responsibility to see that Thane gets all the testing and/ or care that he needs. I would not hesitate to have testing done if he presented with diarrhea, so why would I do that when he is presenting with symptoms that could have to do with the health of his eyes.

If this is eye disease related, finding out now could be the difference between treatment that saves his sight and our partnership and that of retirement because I waited too long and there is nothing that could be done.

I accept right now that this could very easily be a focus, change in lighting with the arrival of spring, even issues with thyroid balance amongst any number of things to be considered including tick borne diseases since there are nine months of his life that I personally was not a part of.

I'm trying not to worry-- live our life as carefully as we can, but not be so careful as to induce anxiety in my *soft* guide dog. In ten days, I will know one way or the other about his eyes. For now, the other will remain as unknowns until we eliminate this first possibility.

In my heart, I want to hope there is a focus and time of year reasoning for it all. Here's to hoping that what my heart wants is the reality!

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