Adopting A Blind Dog: What You Need To Know

You guys!

If you recall, I recently did an article with Tree House on what it’s like to adopt a blind kitty. Well, we couldn’t leave out our doggie friends! Today, we have with us Karen Belfi of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance to answer some of our questions about adopting and living with dogs who are vision impaired.

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Crepes: Welcome, Karen! Please tell me a bit about BlindDogRescue.org.  It seems that you don’t have a specific physical location, but that you are a network across the US and Canada. Is that correct?
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Karen Belfi: Yes. We have a series of foster homes throughout the US and Canada. Since we formed in August 2009, we have rescued over 300 blind and visually impaired dogs.
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C: Excellent! Some of the dogs that you have rescued aren’t completely blind but have impaired night vision or other difficulties. What are some of the other forms of blindness that one might encounter?
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KB: There are many causes of blindness. Cataracts and glaucoma are two common causes. PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy, starts off with night blindness, then the dog eventually loses all vision. Diabetes can cause blindness. Some dogs are born without eyes, or very small, malformed eyes. Injury can cause blindness as well.
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C: What is it like to care for a blind dog?
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KB: Really, they are like any other dog. They react differently to situations, depending on the individual dog. I have a dog with no eyes, Pete, whom I fostered for BDRA, and ended up adopting. He can adapt to anything! We moved a couple of weeks ago, and he learned the layout of the new house (and big yard) in a few hours. You can see him just walk the perimeter figuring things out. My other blind dog, Mabel, took longer to figure things out. It’s very individual. Most dogs adapt to blindness very well.
Blind dog "Malcolm" having a meet and greet.

Blind dog “Malcolm” having a meet and greet.

C: Are there any particular household dangers that someone caring for a blind dog should look out for, such as dangerous furniture, stairs, etc.?
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KB: Stairs, of course, are a concern until the dog learns where they are. Anything that can puncture the eye, like branches, are a concern, if the dog still has eyes. This is why ophthalmologists will sometimes recommend removing a dog’s eye(s) if they are blind.
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C: What is it like to take a blind dog out for a walk? Do you always need to take the same route?
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KB: Pete pulls like any other dog! He just plows right along as if he could see. We try to get our blind dogs and fosters used to different situations. We take them everywhere – into pet stores, into the city, to the park – to get them used to noises, smells, etc. We try to make them as independent and confident as possible.
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C: Do blind dogs like to explore their environments?
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KB: They do. Their noses tend to work VERY well, so they use them to explore and figure out where they are. We teach a couple basic commands to them. “Watch” is for when something is in their way. They learn to slow down and feel for what’s there. “Step” is for when there are stairs, a curb, etc. They start to slow down and feel for the step.
This doggie's rolling in the grass so far he's blurry!

This doggie’s rolling in the grass so fast he’s blurry! No camera could catch his awesome!

C: Can you teach a blind dog to play fetch using a sound toy, or is that not something you’d want to have a blind dog performing?
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KB: I have a rubber ball that has a bell in it. Pete loves to play fetch with it. We have also gotten some tennis balls with bells in them that the dogs love to play with. There are other noisy balls and toys they can use.
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C: Can you leave a blind dog unattended in the same way you would a sighted dog?
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KB: This would also depend on the individual dog. Does the dog know the area well? Is the dog a chewer? Will the dog get into things in your absence? Are stairs blocked off? Our dogs do fine left alone. They know exactly where the stairs are, and do not tend to get into things.
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C: Please walk us through how you would teach a blind dog to perform the basic command “sit.”
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KB: It’s really the same as any other dog. Tap their bottom, or hold the biscuit high above their nose to position them to sit, then treat.
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C: How can our readers assist BlindDogRescue.org if they’re interested in helping further? What do you need the most?
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KB: We ALWAYS need volunteers. Of course we always want foster homes, but if you can’t foster, we definitely need your help!
We need people to do lots of things-organize transports for fosters (you don’t have to drive to do this!), check adoption applications, contact shelters with blind dogs, attend local events, check volunteer applications, etc. Lots of things. If anyone wants to help, they can fill out the volunteer app on our website.
FACT: Children love blind dogs.

FACT: Children love blind dogs.

C: Is there anything you’d like to mention that I’ve forgotten?
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KB: I think the main thing to know about blind dogs is that they are all individual. Many people tend to assign character traits to a blind dog. “He’s scared of other dogs, because he is blind.” “He should have another dog with him, because he is blind.” Really, that depends on the dog. Some blind dogs are scared of other dogs. But, some sighted dogs are too. Ditto having another dog in the house. Some do better, some do better as an only dog. Each dog is so individual. They’re dogs first, blind second!
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That’s it, everyone! A wonderful thanks to Karen Belfi for her help with this piece. I hope this article opens your eyes to the awesomeness of blind dogs. If you’re considering adopting one, here are some more resources for you to look at:
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You see those photos above? That’s Malcolm. Tomorrow, we meet Malcolm, who just so happens to be looking for a home, no pun intended.
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Love,
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Crepes.
**photos provided by Margaret D. of BDRA – Thank you! **
PS. Last chance to enter The Honest Kitchen Quickies Valentine’s giveaway! Just leave a comment and let me know you want an entry! (and make sure I have your email there in case you win!)

Behind Bub: Q&A With Mike Bridavsky, Bub’s Dude

Last week, Crepes spoke with Lil Bub about her special needs and how she lives her life. This week, I’m talking to Mike Bridavsky, better known as Bub’s “Dude,” about his life, career, and what he wants for Bub. A man with admirable qualities exemplified by the caring he shows for his special needs cat, Mike manages her career in a way that doesn’t allow for nonsense or exploitation (a topic I discussed a few weeks ago.) But what else is interesting about the man behind Bub? Let’s find out.
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Mike and one of his other cats Special Agent Dale Cooper. Meowza.

Mike and one of his other cats, Special Agent Dale Cooper. Meowza.

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AG: Welcome, Mike. Please tell me, what is your biggest goal for Bub?
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MB: I don’t have any “goals” for BUB. My main priority for BUB, as my pet, is to be as healthy, comfortable and happy as she can possibly be.
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AG:  Bub’s health is obviously your number one concern. I’ve read that you’ve learned reiki to help treat her and that she also is being treated for osteoporosis. How is she doing with the therapies that you’ve selected for her treatment? 
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MB: The “reiki” is helpful, but what I do is more along the lines of energy work. I don’t really know exactly what I’m doing, I just know what works and what she responds to. It’s sort of a personal thing, and I realize it might sound like voodoo to most people, but all I really care about is that it works, and that BUB benefits from it. But the most useful treatment that has had the most noticeable results, is the PEMF treatment with the Assisi Loop, as well as vibration therapy. These treatments are very useful in treating her very specific bone disorder, and since starting them she has gone from almost completely immobile to being able to run around.
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AG: That’s a great result! What does Mike Bridavsky do for work when he’s not traveling with Bub? I’ve heard tell of a recording studio. Are you a musician? 
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MB: I have owned and operated a recording studio called “Russian Recording” for the past 10 years. I record, mix, and master records for bands, and have worked on about 600-700 to date. I also play guitar and bass in several touring bands.
Window to the studio.

Window to the studio.

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AG: Have you put aside your other pursuits presently while working on Bub’s career?
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MB: There’s only so much time in the day. And at this point in my life, most of it spent on working on “BUB STUFF.” I spend about 80 hours a week on that on average, but also try to make time for my studio and music when I can.
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AG: I’ve heard that you refused representation for Bub and yourself, and prefer to have people approach you rather than solicit opportunities. What’s your reasoning for that?
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MB: Well it’s because I want to keep things organic and natural. That’s how it all started… I never meant for BUB to become a celebrity cat! It started as just sharing pictures of her with friends and eventually she developed a big fan base, which turned into, well, what it is now! Early on, when it first started happening I considered stopping it. But I saw how much joy she brought to so many people, and also realized it could be an opportunity to spread a positive message, raise awareness and also raise money. So at that point I decided that I would go with the flow… wait for opportunities to come, follow through with the ones that felt good and right, and execute them to my best ability while trying to include my talented friends in the process. I am perfectly ok with all of this to be over at any moment. But as long as there is interest and unsolicited opportunities keep coming, I’m happy to keep it going as long as I have full control over how BUB is portrayed, where the money goes and well, everything.
Vivian hanging at the studio.

Vivian hanging at the studio.

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AG: You have four other cats that live at your studio. What are their names? Would you be willing to share a photo of them? I think they also deserve a shout out since Bub gets most of the daily attention.
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MB: I have four other cats. Josie, Vivian, Special Agent Dale Cooper and Oskar. Oskar’s been missing for about 3 months now, so I’m assuming he’s found another planet to live on. I’d be happy to share photos of them.
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AG: Is there anything you’d like to mention that I may have forgotten?
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MB: GOOD JOB BUB
Mike with Oskar, before he left for another planet.

Mike with Oskar, before he left for another planet.

Mike and Vivian, one of his studio cats.

Mike and Vivian, one of his studio cats.

Mike with Josie.

Mike with Josie.

Special Agent Dale Cooper, super model.

Special Agent Dale Cooper, super model.

 

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There it is!  Our Q&A with Mike Bridavsky. What do you guys think? Is there anything you want to know about him that we haven’t asked? Maybe we can find out the answers!  Also, maybe if you’ve seen Oskar, you could let us know.
The missing Oskar.

The missing Oskar.

Love,
Crepes.