Today we meet Alex and discuss life with Raj, a blind American Pit Bull. Raj suffered horrible abuse in his early life before being rescued by Animal Humane New Mexico and eventually adopted by Alex.
Alex tells us about Raj's adjustment to becoming blind and settling into a safe, new life in Albuquerque. She shares some great advice and recommends useful products for others who are adjusting to life with a blind dog.
Could you tell us a bit about Raj and how he came to be blind?
Raj was already missing an eye when he was brought into the shelter. Once he visited the vet, they realized that his remaining eye had glaucoma, was infected, and had substantial visions loss. They made the decision to remove the remaining eye. When we adopted Raj, he had only be blind for 1 to 2 months. He was still getting used to his vision loss as we were learning to live with a blind dog.
It was a learning process to figure out how to sort through the information on blind dogs and find what worked for him.
What is a regular day like with Raj?
On weekdays, I wake up and feed Raj before I leave for work. He will wake up when he hears his food being scooped, but he goes back to sleep immediately after eating.
Raj will greet me at the door when I get home from work. We usually wrestle for about 5 minutes before he starts to get tired. After that we have a cuddle session on the couch. We live in an area of town that has a lot of traffic during rush hour, which means a lot of noise. Loud noises startle Raj so we usually wait for late evening to take him on walks around the neighborhood.
Raj likes to go on outings on the weekends but likes quiet spaces without crowds. We like to take him to do different outdoor activities including visiting different nature parks and gardens.
What products or tips would you recommend for someone with a blind dog?
We have experimented with a lot of tricks and products and have had varying success. We have a nice backyard and wanted him to have access to it, so we decided to install a dog door. We got the largest dog door they had to make sure he would have space and not run into the frame. It took some time working with him to get him past the fear of pushing his head through the door flap, but treats helped. Now, Raj let’s himself out whenever he needs to.
When we adopted Raj, we were given a halo. We attempted to have him use it, but every time we would put it on he completely refused to move. I know others have had significant success with halos, but that was not our story.
Raj likes to sleep on our bed, but it was always difficult for him to get on and off. We worried about the impact on his joints over time. We ended up getting pet stairs for the bed, which I think are the greatest investment we have made.
When we first adopted Raj, we worried about him being able to find his food and water, so we got a water fountain as his water bowl, so he would be able to follow the noise until he got used to the layout.
We were advised to use scents to mark different point in the house (ie different smells for walls, doorframes, food area, etc). Unfortunately, we discovered that Raj has basically no sense of smell, so this strategy was unsuccessful.
Raj like soft toys that have small squeakers. Toys that make very loud sounds scare him. We have had some success with Kong toys that can hold treats. He is highly food motivated, but can get frustrated if the treat is too hard to get to. I usually have to strategically place the treats so he has to work to get them, but are still fairly accessible.
I am not sure what Raj’s behavior was like before. He lost his eyes, but now he sleeps A LOT. He likes to sleep near us and usually under blankets. It is possible he has always been a sleepy pup, but it is also possible that his circadian rhythm has been thrown off.
What advice would you offer to someone facing life with a blind dog?
The hardest part about adopting Raj was just getting over the initial fear of not being able to handle his disability. Once we made the decision to adopt, it has been mostly smooth sailing. His lack of vision doesn’t bother him and doesn’t make his care significantly different than any other dog I have owned. He is actually more independent than any other dog I have owned.
Follow Alex and Raj's journey together on Instagram.
We are collating a summary of all the products, tips and tricks that have been provided by our wonderful interviewees. See what other products are recommended for blind dogs here.