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Apodaca: Lessons learned from an ailing family pet

March 01, 2014|By Patrice Apodaca
  • Petey, a Labrador mix, has been treated for a variety of ailments, including losing his sight.
Petey, a Labrador mix, has been treated for a variety of… (Patrice Apodaca )

Since my dog lost his vision, I've listened to experts and consulted websites for advice about coping with a sightless pet. But aside from all the practical tips, I've learned that living with a blind dog is a lesson in patience, commitment and letting go of anxiety over carpet stains.

It is, most of all, a lesson in love.

I have no doubt that all you pet owners instantly recognize this kind of unconditional, unrestrained love. We cherish our animal friends, and take our responsibilities for their well-being as sacred and unshakable. We strive to calm their nerves and ease their suffering, and hope for the wisdom to know when enough is enough.

Who among us hasn't consoled a friend who mourned their pet's passing as they would of any other family member, or swapped tales of dogged devotion with passersby?

One friend even risked her life to save her dog after he fell through the ice on a frozen pond. Without a moment's thought for her own safety, she jumped in after him, followed by her other dog. Suddenly realizing that they all might die, she summoned an extraordinary adrenaline rush to heave both animals out of the water and then drag herself from its icy grip. Numb and exhausted, she carried her dogs nearly a mile back home before collapsing in a puddle at the feet of her astonished husband.

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"You have to understand," she later told me. "My dogs are my children."

When we first learned that our Petey might be vision-impaired, my husband and I weren't overly concerned. He was getting on in years, so it seemed natural that his vision might be weakening, just as I now use reading glasses to decipher microscopic print.

We were also far more concerned at the time with his other mystery ailments, from distressing intestinal eruptions to neurological issues. The kind folks at Corona del Mar Animal Hospital had referred us to an internist, and over many months Petey was put through a battery of tests and dietary and drug regimens as his weight and health fluctuated wildly.

There were days when we braced ourselves for the worst, but after time his condition stabilized. So when the internist recommended that we also consult a veterinary ophthalmologist, we didn't give much credence to the possibility that he might actually be going blind.

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