For Alayne and me, this is the ultimate satisfaction: giving a blind animal his or her sight back. We've only had the opportunity to do this once before -- several years ago with a blind puppy named Cody. It was thrilling then, and it was just as thrilling today. Charlie the blind Beagle is now Charlie the seeing Beagle.
I left the ranch this morning at 5 a.m. with Charlie and blind Gabe in the truck, headed for Washington state. My first stop was Spokane, where I dropped off Charlie at the Animal Eye Clinic, and from there I continued on to Pullman, where I left Gabe at the WSU veterinary teaching hospital to start his three-week course of radiation therapy. Then I made the return trip to Spokane.
While I was en route to Pullman and back, our veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Bill Yakely, performed cataract surgery on Charlie. In late July our vet in Helena, Dr. Brenda Culver, had done an ERG, or electroretinogram, test on Charlie to see if his retinas were firing. We had conflicting results the first time (we found out later it was due to an issue with one of the probes) and had to re-test. The second time the ERGs were consistent for both eyes, and Dr. Yakely confirmed Charlie was a candidate for the phacoemulsification surgery to remove his cataracts.
Even in the exam room this afternoon, still groggy from the anesthesia, I watched Charlie walk right through the open door -- and I could tell it wasn't a fluke, he could see where it was. No bumping into the wall. I took him outside for a brief walk in the parking lot, and I noticed he would walk right up to vehicles and stop a few inches from them, then look up. I let him find his way between the parked cars, and again, he never bumped into anything as he walked. He only had a little trouble with his depth perception when stepping off curbs, but that will come with time as his eyes and brain learn to work together again.
His biggest problem this evening is just that dang cone on his head. That's the part he can't figure out. He keeps catching the bottom of it on the ground and then thinks someone hit the brakes on him, so he stops. I lift up his cone and off he goes again. I took these outside shots after we got back to the hotel and I let him off leash in the big yard at the back of the building. He'd see something happening off in the parking area and stand there looking at it:
I tell you, watching him actually see again just gives me goose-bumps.
We have one complication from the surgery. His lenses were very dense -- about the worst Dr. Yakely had seen -- presumably because he had these cataracts for a long, long time. That made removing them tricky. His left lens was loose, and to hold it in place for the surgery, Dr. Yakely had to insert a capsular tension ring to add rigidity to the lens capsule. (It stays in with the new lens implant.) During his pre-discharge exam this afternoon, Dr. Yakely noticed through his slit-lamp that the capsular tension ring had shifted.
Here's a photo of Dr. Yakeley and his vet tech Dawn D. doing that exam:
It's possible the ring may shift back into place on its own overnight, but if not, Dr. Yakely may have to do a follow-up procedure tomorrow to get the ring back into the correct position. We won't know until he does another exam on Charlie tomorrow morning.
In the meantime, as I've been writing this post, Charlie has been wandering around the hotel room, never bumping into a thing. It is just so amazing to watch him navigate around the coffee table, chairs, the suitcase on the floor ... oh my, what a great feeling it is to see that.
Most interesting of all, he keeps returning to the full-length mirror on the closet door to stare at himself:
Is he saying to himself, "Goodness, what a handsome Beagle I am!"
Just like Teddy and Gabe and Helen and all the others for whom we can provide world-class veterinary care, it's only possible because of the generous gifts we receive for the animals. Charlie's surgery will cost about $2,800 -- and I know there is no one who thinks the gift of sight isn't worth that and a whole lot more. Alayne and I are just so grateful for your donations that allow us to do something like this! Thank you!
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