People say blind dogs see with their hearts. I look at my new friend Hayden, a sweet Labrador retriever who happens to be completely blind, and think maybe they are right. As we gently rub noses, I have no doubt that she sees me just as clearly—maybe more—than any sighted dog. She may not see my face, but she can read my heart.
Davi: How did you become blind?
Hayden: My vet believes I was born blind, because when I had eyes (my mom had them both removed, because I separately developed glaucoma in each of them, and it hurt me, so taking the eyes out was the best option), my retinas were detached.
What is it like to live a life with a vision disability?
Well, I bump into some things, but as long as my mom doesn’t move items in the house, I get around really well. I know where objects are, and when I get down from mom’s bed, I smell my way through doorways to go outside. It’s like a maze. Luckily, the world has so many cool smells; that’s what I like to do when I am awake: sniff around!
How do other dogs react to your impairment?
They are very nice to me. I think they know I can’t see, so most dogs are really helpful and gentle. I confuse them sometimes, though, because I like to play, and when I do a play bow, I don’t always know where they are—I sometimes do it in the wrong direction.
What senses do you rely on most?
I listen a lot, like when my tummy tells me I am hungry, which is all the time! I also have a super powered nose, so I sniff around more than the other dogs in my house.
How do you stay active?
These days, I like to go on walks around my neighborhood. I also like to meet new people and old friends.
What challenges do you face in your everyday life?
For a long time, I had a fatty tumor on my hip that made me wiggle my butt a lot when I walked. I finally had it removed, so now my biggest challenge is finagling more treats.
How did you learn to safely navigate life at home?
In the beginning, my mom walked me through the house. But once I figured out the layout, I was fine—though sometimes I run into the other dogs.
Do you dream?
Yes! Sometimes I dream I am swimming, but most of the time I dream of treats and belly rubs.
What one thing do you wish you could see?
My mom. I give her kisses all the time to let her know I love her.
What advice would you have for dogs who are visually impaired?
Keep a big smile on your face, and walk slowly until you know the lay of the land.
A blind dog leads a different life than that of a sighted dog, but it’s by no means a lesser life. Make a few slight changes to the way you interact with them, and visually impaired dogs can adjust quite well to their new situation. Wherever they are, they teach lessons in courage and kindness, proving they don’t need all five senses to do so.