yes, yes I am.
Not because I lovingly refer to him as the Village Idiot, but because he has a real reason for, well, seeming like an idiot sometimes.
We’ve had Ivan for almost a year now, and when we got him, the vet told us he had Juvenile Cataracts. Sure, we could do surgery, but he was born with them, doesn’t know the difference and would have cost nearly $5000 when you factored in traveling, lodging, food, etc to go to a state where there was a vet who actually performed that surgery.
So, we’ve known he had “limited” vision and worked with him just like you would any other dog. Have spent the last year trying to deal with “hyperactivity”, “excessive chewing” and just well, down-right puppy energy like you would any other puppy.
Our vet is retiring…and Ivan needs to be um, well, castrated. Old vet is not doing those procedures anymore. Time for a new vet, which meant “New puppy” visit prior to the other, not so happy for Ivan, event. This appointment was Friday. And we learned something new.
It’s not cataracts.
Ivan was born with two different congenital defects in his eyes: hypoplastic retina and persistent pupillary membranes. The first is the biggest issue, essentially, Ivan is blind. When he was developing in his mother’s uterus, something didn’t go right with the development of his retinas and the optical nerve didn’t develop properly.
The vet estimates Ivan has less than 5% vision.
Okay, so Ivan was born this way, he doesn’t know any differently. True. However, 5% of dogs that are blind develop what is known as Severe Destructive Separation Anxiety. Essentially, they freak out and they destroy stuff. I’ve shared a bit about Ivan’s previous “destruction” here and here. As a result of his previous
adventures, um, situations, we decided to kennel him. Well, we learned pretty quickly that Ivan was claustrophobic (I say that knowing what I know now and think, well duh!, you would be too if you couldn’t see and someone stuck you in a box). However, we had to keep him kenneled while we were gone so he would stop destroying things.
Getting rid of Ivan was never (and still is not) an option. Period. I don’t throw away my kids because there is a problem, I will not do it with my pet either. And please, no, well that’s your child and that’s an animal stuff…this is about stewardship of the blessings God has given me and the opportunities for growth that the Lord places before me. How He chooses to do that is not up to me (all the time).
Turns out, that even though Ivan hates to be kenneled, it’s actually safer for him. With less than 5% vision, he seeks light when he is looking and if something were to scare him enough that he tried to run, he would run towards the greatest source of light. Guess what that might be?
That is a bad idea on so many levels: especially if Ivan were on the 2nd floor of the house. See where I am going with that thought…
Anyhow, why do I feel guilty? Because for the last year we have treated Ivan like a normal dog ~ flexible to the whims of his human companions, and disciplining when what he has been doing is normal compensation for his lack of sight. We can do that to a degree. There are differences in how we have to teach him, work with him, and expectations. We are off on a new learning adventure.
Ivan is a really smart dog.
I know he will learn. But like Anne Sullivan to Helen Keller, we will have to reach to him emotionally to reach him intelligently.