At first I didn’t notice it but one night while walking Molly she ran into a neighbor’s car in the pitch black of the night. It surprised me. Molly had been chasing squirrels, deer and grabbing butterflies and dragonflies out of the air but I had noticed that she had become more tentative when walking at night and when going into my apartment during the daytime, but I didn’t think much of it, until she ran into that car. By late November and early December she was having more problems.
She was been seen by a local vet who had removed a benign tumor from her shoulder which had been causing her pain and hampering her mobility. I mentioned the vision loss and they did a look in the eyes and noticed small cataracts in each, but nothing that should cause that kind of loss. So we were referred to a veterinary eye care specialist.
We saw that doctor today and after a thorough examination she was diagnosed with Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is a genetic and inherited disorder much like Macular Degeneration. Due to how fast it came on there was nothing we could do to even slow it down.
The news was hard. We were hoping that it was simply cataracts that could be removed and her vision restored. The disease is progressive and we understand that she will probably go completely blind. However, the disease is painless for the dog, except maybe for when they run into a wall, but most dogs adjust and Molly has been doing that in a most amazing manner.
I think that the diagnosis was harder on us than her. She is adjusting and we are glad that it is not neurological condition or a brain tumor causing it. I have been worried about her because as Judy will testify, Molly has helped bring me back from the abyss of PTSD and helped bring me back to humanity. In a sense she helped save my life. She is daddy’s girl, she loves being around me and is good for me. I have never had a daddy’s girl before. Of our first two dogs, Frieda a Wire Hair Dachshund was her own dog, a dog unto herself and we were just the woefully inept hired help, and Greta a smooth hair Dachshund was mommy’s co-dependent baby.
Her blindness is worse at night and she still does pretty well during the day. To help her at night I shine a flashlight on the ground behind me and she follows with confidence. During the day she trots along happily and does uses her other senses to avoid things and will run with me.
I have written about Molly before. She is scary smart and exceptionally good tempered. She has learned her way around, carefully at first and as she becomes adjusted to her surroundings becomes more confident. We have two steps in that lead to our living room and it is fascinating to watch her feel for them and then carefully take each step.
She savors all of life. She still gets excited to go for walks, she still plays and she loves to ride in the car and absolutely loves it when I spend time brushing her brilliant red and wavy fur. Not much has really changed for her.
She also continues to push the envelope, doing things that she never did before. We have had a dog gate at the foot of our stairs for a long time. The reason for it was because Molly had had a spinal infection when she was seven years old and we didn’t want to take any chances on her hurting her back. It also helped keep her out of trouble, especially her perusing our closets for things to destroy when she was unhappy at being left home alone.
When she could see she never messed with the gate. Now however, she will push the gate open and then carefully go up the 13 steps to get upstairs. She has stopped trying to jump on the furniture and now is perfectly content with our bean bag chairs.
She is using her senses in ways we never thought, carefully listening to everything and using her sense of smell as well as touch to get around and function. She will still chase after and play with our now one year old Papillon puppy Minnie, who I think figured out that Molly was having vision problems before us. Minnie seems to be doing what she can to help Molly around keep her going.
We got Minnie shortly after Molly demanded to move to North Carolina with me and left Judy alone at home. Molly had been part of Judy’s alarm system and Minnie has become Judy’s guard dog. Minnie is mommy’s puppy and she is happiest and most secure with Judy. She is also really sweet to Molly and as I said seems to be doing what she can to help Molly out when she is not annoying her. They are funny together.
Molly seems to be going the extra mile to remind us that she is still relevant and capable. She will lay or sit by our front door and do guard duty, occasionally alerting and barking to let us know of whatever danger is out there. I was walking her at my North Carolina apartment at night and she sensed deer near us and gave chase and she will chase Minnie around the house.
What is cool about Molly is how unflappable she is. She is confident and determined and above all happy. I don’t think that I have ever seen a dog as happy and she is still extremely sweet and affectionate.
Dean Koontz wrote:
“One of the greatest gifts we receive from dogs is the tenderness they evoke in us. The disappointments of life, the injustices, the battering events that are beyond our control, and the betrayals we endure, from those we befriended and loved, can make us cynical and turn our hearts into flint – on which only the matches of anger and bitterness can be struck into flame. By their delight in being with us, the reliable sunniness of their disposition, the joy they bring to playtime, the curiosity with which they embrace each new experience, dogs can melt cynicism,and sweeten the bitter heart.”
Despite her blindness the Mighty Miss Molly continues to enjoy life and adds a lot of joy to our lives. It hurts to see her go blind but at the same time she is such an inspiration to us.