Smiling Through Our Tears

Good morning Everyone!

One of my favorite pictures of Tyra ever

Last week, Tyra went completely blind in about two days.  You may remember from earlier posts that she was already blind in one eye due to canine glaucoma.  Last week, the retina in her good eye detached.  The name for this is something like Sudden Retinal Detachment Syndrome, which just means that her retina detached and no-one knows why.

The effect, though, is obvious.  Our sweet, loving, smart, obedient Tyra cannot see.  At all.  And while she does not appear to be grieving or upset, rather instead focusing her energy on learning how to get around, the human contingent of our family is quite sad about it, even while we also work on what we need to do to help Tyra and the other two dogs adjust.

This picture, taken in January, shows you her "bad" eye on the right.

The purpose of this post, though, is not to make you sad, either, but to point out that even in sad times you can find things that, if not funny, at least make you smile.

A pastel I did of Tyra

For example, there was my casual observation that while I wouldn’t want this to happen to any of the dogs, at least it happened to the smartest one of the bunch who is able to figure out ways to cope.  If it had been Mandy, she would have spent all weekend in a standoff with a wall.  She doesn’t move for anything she collides with, but rather expects it to move for her.   Convincing her, with her combination basset hound/husky stubbornness  that she would ultimately have to yield for a wall, would be nigh impossible.

Mandy, studying the treadmill

One of the things we have to do is teach Tyra how to find her water bowl, since water is difficult to smell.  After she refused to drink even when we put plain water in a coffee cup in front of her, I suggested we at first give her a glass of sweet tea.  The sweet tea innovation was very popular.

All of the reading I have done about dog behavior and characteristics finally paid off, too, when I remembered that a dog’s sense of smell is a billion times (or something like that) more acute than ours, so we then took the next coffee cup of water and laced it with just a splash of sweet tea, which also was popular with the blind dog contingent of the household.

Tyra laughing at Callaway Gardens this winter.

It is also nice to finally have a use for all of the coffee cups that come with every set of china that we buy beyond those we reserve for visitors.  We don’t drink coffee, so they get very little use.

Mark had Tyra up on the couch beside him Sunday evening, and he was drinking sweet tea in a large class.  She could smell it and started trying to lick the side of the glass, clearly believing that she is now entitled to sweet tea, too.

Kayla and Tyra, 12 days after Kayla came to live with us

She found the water bowl by herself Sunday afternoon, and the whole family stood up and cheered. at least metaphorically.

The vet said that steps would be the one thing that she would have a hard time handling, and since the back yard is only accessible through a steep set of stairs down from the porch, we have been walking her on a leash in the front of the house.  She loves it.  The other two dogs were not happy the first time we took her out on a leash, leaving them inside (and folks, I am just not up to the crazed Hittite charioteer routine two or three times a day), but over the next couple of days they seem to have mellowed out about it.

There has been the pride Mark and I feel as parents in Kayla, who has been as sweet and loving to Tyra as anyone could wish.  The only problem is helping her understand that she can’t keep Tyra 100% safe; Tyra has to be allowed to explore her surroundings, which means she does bump into furniture once in a while, and the other dogs have to be allowed around her so they can adjust.  Kayla  also has been a great help with the other two dogs, giving them extra love and attention to help keep them from feeling left out.

Mandy and Darwin confer

Mandy and Darwin haven’t quite figured things out yet.  I think they know something has changed but they’re not sure what.    They do not harass Tyra in any way, although Darwin got a little confused when Tyra didn’t respond to his play bow Monday morning.  Dr. Mitchell said that one of them eventually will take over as sort of a guide dog for Tyra.  No sign of that so far, but then it is early days yet.

Blind or not, Tyra still expects (and gets) elevator service onto our bed at night.  The only difference is that she also gets lifted back down when it is time for her to get off.

Another favorite picture of Tyra

And then there is Tyra herself.  Dogs can mope just as humans can, but there has been no moping in Tyra.  We can’t explain to her what has happened, but she knows that she can’t see and rather than waste time feeling sorry for herself, she is, instead, working on learning what she needs to learn to carry on.  If she looked miserable or sad all the time, we would be hard pressed not to be ourselves, but she wanders around the house happily, then finds somewhere comfortable to lie down, and as soon as she hears our voices starts to thump that tail of hers.  She follows us when we lead her on the leash with absolute trust, and even got a couple of walks around the neighborhood this weekend which she really enjoyed.   We still see her laugh quite a bit.

It is these small blessings that make adjusting to this new phase for all of us  possible, and we are grateful for them.

Have a great day everyone!


25 responses to “Smiling Through Our Tears

  1. My cat got like that but maybe a bit worse. She walked into things and when she tumbled down the stairs we had no option but to visit the vet

  2. She’s very lucky to have you guys as caregivers! We hope all of you continue to adjust smoothly.

  3. What a warm and touching story.. thank you for sharing. It makes some of the things that we think are soo important trivial by comparison…

  4. So sorry to hear about her blindness. but she is so blessed to have a family like yours to care for her!

  5. Thank you for sharing Tyra’s story Nancy. I will share this on my BBC news.

  6. Pingback: News from the BBC « bassasblog

  7. I was sent here from Bassa’s Blog. I loved your story about Tyra! She sounds like a smart, savvy, girl who knows how to go with the flow. What a great skill to have whether you’re a dog or a human. It sounds like she’s in good hands, including the tiniest hands in the house. Best of luck with her progress.

  8. I was also sent here from Bassa’s Blog. Tyra…you are truly beautiful and know that your story has touched so many.

  9. Yeah I found in on Bassa’s Blog too, Tyra’s an inspiration to all. My big sister Jess was going blind from cataracts but mom found some eyedrops called Re-Vital Eyes which broke them up and she can see really well, but at the time I felt sorry for her not being able to join in the games and fights that me and Alf were enjoying. Please pass on my best wishes to Tyra – Love Bones

  10. Thanks for this beautiful story, Nancy. My fur brofur(a cat) has only one eye and mom and the other family feel very dorry for him, but this story encourages us a lot! I’m glad that Tyra feels happy! The sweet tea story is amazing! 🙂

  11. Oh, how can I relate. My daughter lost the love of her life last sat. His name was Koda, a loyal malamute form the shelter.My husband and I fond him ten years ago after her other best friend died. About three weeks ago she asked me to come and take some pictures of him as he was getting older, but he was as healthy and frisky as a pup. Something told me to grab my camera and go now. Within 2 weeks he was gone – died sleeping by her side while she slept on the couch. Aggressive cancer took him away. Several months ago, her beautiful Husky had an injured paw, she went to change the bandage and the dog bite her hand – very badly. The dog was not up to date for rabies so she had to be quarantined for ten days at the pound. The vet told my daughter to have the dog put down because the dog could never be trusted again.
    When the 10 days were up she got a call from the pound saying that the dog was rabies free – my daughter said she would come and pick her up. While on the phone, a vet tech put the her dog to sleep!
    This has been so hard on all of us since my daughter is not married and has only us for comfort and support.

    Thanks for sharing your touching moments.

    • That is so sad! I hope your daughter heals enough after a while to be able to find another dog companion.


      • Today is the day – we went to the German Shepherd Rescue to look at one dog, but he had been trained by two guys in military fashion and, although handsome, he wasn’t loving. We looked at several others than this wonderful one came out and stole our hearts. He gets nipped today and will go home with her tonight. She will foster him for two weeks, take him to her own vet to make sure nothing is wrong, if there is the rescue group will have to pay the vet bill. Then she will adopt him. First time I’ve seen her smile and get excited since her beloved dog passed on.

      • That’s great! Tell me more about the wonderful dog – do you have any pictures?


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