Since Beacon arrived, we have noticed his 'unusual' approach to stairs. It started innocently as a little puppy being afraid of the stairs, so we carried him up and down the stairs for a few days. As Beacon grew, he still was leery of taking the stairs and getting in and out of the van. We notified our AC and noted it on Beacon's 3 month evaluation sheet. As we were able to expose him to more places, we noticed he was handling stairs and other obstacles oddly. It appeared to us that Beacon lacked depth perception. Southeastern asked us to take Beacon to Veterinary Ophthalmology Services in Nashville for an eye examination. The facility was immaculate, the staff was terrific, the Vet was thoughtful, patient and kind, and they agreed to see Beacon free of charge since he is a puppy in training.
The visit went something like this...
'Welcome to Veterinary Ophthalmology Services, this must be Beacon. There is a fridge right here if you want something to drink and fresh coffee here' pointing us in the direction of a kitchen area. The staff was outrageously kind and welcoming.
After filling out some paperwork, we waited in a very nicely furnished waiting room. I was kind of envious, wishing the interior of my home could look something like this - unscratched hardwood floors, dotted with beautiful oriental rugs, wood framed prints coordinated with a single theme, unsmudged and untouched nicely painted walls done in that perfect shade of beige I have unsuccessfully tried to find for my front hall and tons of glossy decorative moulding.
|Me sitting on the leather sofa|
giving a thumbs up to Billy
Beacon is in a down, stay
|Interior of VOS|
I love this wall color
and the trim
We met Belle, a boxer, who was being followed up for a scratched cornea, Ducky, the dachshund, waiting for a recheck on her cataract removal surgery, and Barney, the Basset Hound, waiting for an eye exam. I could not imagine a practice solely dedicated to animal eye care would be in such high demand, but judging from the 8 or 10 dogs we saw while waiting to be called back, I was proven wrong yet again.
A tech came out to the leather couch we were sitting on and reviewed Beacon's medical history and the purpose for our visit. A different tech lead us to the scale to get Beacon's weight (45 pounds!) and then lead us across the tile floor to an exam room.
Our tech was super nice and checked Beacon's tear production (pass) and the amount of pressure on his eyes (pass).
Dr. Huskey came in to check Beacon's eyes further.
|Beacon on the exam table.|
A technician is petting his head
while Dr. Huskey checks
We could not get any pictures for most of this time since the lights were off as Dr. Huskey kept shining different lights into Beacon's eyes. There were no signs of cataracts or glaucoma or any other abnormalities. Happy would be an understatement!
Dr. Huskey explained to me how this could just be an odd behavior Beacon has learned but there was one more test that needed to be done to ensure a clean eye bill of health. The only problem was that they could not do the test at that time. Dr. Huskey asked if we could bring Beacon back at 12:30 so they could perform this needed test during their lunch hour. (I am serious - they were really kind!) So Billy, Beacon and I headed off the the Parthenon for a quick Art Sculpture/Art History lesson. It also tied in perfectly with Billy's Greek literature curriculum. This was a great distraction to the nagging 'Everyone must think I am crazy, maybe it is just me that thinks Beacon cannot see properly' thoughts going through my head.
|Beacon and I at the top of the|
stairs of the Parthenon.
This is a full scale
replica of the original.
|Billy standing over a sitting Beacon|
inside the Parthenon.
|Billy standing with Beacon properly|
seated on his left. They
are standing in front of a scaled down
version of the Gods and
Goddess' of the east piedmont of the
|Billy standing while Beacon|
is in a down, stay in front
of the 43' tall
statue of Athena
We arrived back at VOS by 12:30 and we happily greeted by the staff again and the wonderful smells of lunch time. I do not know what they were cooking/warming, but it smelled delicious!
The tech said the testing would be done in the dark again so there was no need for us to accompany Beacon, and being the great puppy he is, Beacon went willingly with the technician. Approximately 30 minutes later the technician returned a very happy Beacon to me and said Dr. Huskey would be out to talk to us.
Then Dr. Huskey, very gently, broke the bad news I hoped I would not hear. Beacon does have a problem with his eyes. He has myopia or nearsighted (he cannot see at distances very well). We discussed how odd that was since I was noticing that it appeared that he could not see near objects. She gave some explanation for this (when we let him out, Beacon is looking through the door into the distance which is a blur to him, and then looks down toward the step which is clear, and then up to the blurry distance, and then the step.). She explained that humans, and dogs alike, would need corrective lenses for a sight impairment of + (farsighted) or - (nearsighted) .25. Beacon's eyes were measuring -3.5. Yes, you read that correctly - Beacon eyes were measured at -3.5 (3 point 5) not .35 or .25 or point anything. I tried so hard to keep the tears from flowing - even though I am certain Dr. Huskey would have been most understanding. Of course, sweet Beacon was staying in the perfect down, stay and it made my heart ache all the more. There may be a slight possibility Beacon could outgrow this condition - as he grows and matures, the globes in his eyes would grow and mature and maybe the condition would improve. Dr. Huskey did not sound encouraging about this possibility but she offered to recheck Beacon's eyes (at no cost again!) in 3 months. She has only seen 2 other dogs with this condition, both Labs, (translation - it is not too common overall, but more common in Labs) but wanted to reach out to some other specialty vets to gather some additional information for us and Southeastern. If there was any good news, it was that it is most likely not a genetically linked trait, it is more often a random rare occurance, and the other pups in the litter should be fine!
Dr. Huskey did offer some solutions - there are commercially available contact lenses for dogs (but Dr. Huskey said they are a challenge to keep in a dogs eye) and these...
|A small dog wearing oversized pink doggles.|
Doggles are goggles and eye glasses combined.
|A woeful looking dog wearing doggles.|
|A happy, smiling yellow lab,|
sitting in a car wearing doggles.
Stlll struggling to hold back my tears, Dr. Huskey spoke the obvious. Beacon, with this vision problem, may not be the best candidate for a guide dog. I thought that may be the case, but hearing Dr Huskey confirm it made it even more challenging to hold back the tears. The once pleasing smell of office lunch was now making me nauseous and no matter how nice the office was furnished and decorated, I wanted to run screaming from there. I left without asking so many of the important questions that have come to mind since leaving the office... Are both eyes affected? To the same degree? Will it get worse over time as Beacon ages? What does he actually see now?
So, for now, we await the doctors official report, a reply from Southeastern Guide Dogs as to Beacons continued participation in the program and an answer to our prayers.