the sleeping beauty

I have been on a hiatus from my blog and I’ve been feeling guilty and unsettled about it. I have turned ideas for blog posts around in my head but they have felt half-hearted and incomplete. Then I realized I’ve been avoiding the reason for my hiatus. Millie, my three-year-old Toy Fox Terrier suddenly went blind on Mother’s Day. Of course, this has nothing to do with home improvement or Loisaida and I thought it had no place here. But it has everything to do with us, and so, I feel the story must be told.

Millie In Sheets – Feb 2012

Millie, the night before she lost her sight – May 11

Millie’s catastrophic blindness came quickly in a few stages, each one more terrible than the last. The first was the shock of seeing the dog suddenly bumping into things and with a growing horror realizing that she could not see. There was the frantic call to the vet on the weekend and the sickening research on the Internet while we waited for Monday to arrive. At her first exam, there was a glimmer of hope because she still had some sight in one eye. She would walk down the street kind of fine, only hesitating at the curbs and we said to each other, “This is not so bad, we can handle this”. Then a week later, her eyes literally broke and with that came the glaucoma with all of its pain. We tried to control the hurtful pressure of the eyes with drops, but it was to no avail. Millie became worse. When I picked her up, she would press her body into my chest as if to be absorbed. There was no hope of saving her remaining sight and very quickly it became clear that because of the pain, there would be no saving her eyes.

Millie underwent surgery for the removal of both her eyes three weeks ago. Some of our friends reacted in horror to the idea and thought we should put her down. People have a visceral response to the notion of a blind dog. Perfect strangers are visibly saddened by it. It is like when you pass by a child in a wheelchair, the sadness is almost physical like fingernails scrapping your skin.

Millie, post op – June 11

It never crossed my mind to put down a vital three-year-old dog. Sight is the third sense for dogs. Their sense of smell and hearing are primary. Millie’s vet at the ABC Animal Hospital kept reassuring me “In a month, you’ll forget the dog is blind”. My friend Raquel said, “don’t fret so much, it will make our hearts bigger”. It’s been only 10 days since she has been off pain meds and was cleared for normal activity post-surgery. Here is what Millie can do now:

– She walks down the noisy and smelly streets of Manhattan with her usual tough girl demeanor – head held high, prancing fast. Everyday, she is a little more confident and she now barely reacts when people walk too close to her.

– Millie can fetch! She is fetching toys that make noise and if you throw a ball, she can find it by the sound of the bounce. She is very quickly learning the commands “hot” and “cold” when she gets too excited and misses hearing where the ball landed.

– She went to the dog park and was not fazed by other dogs. Blind dogs can be intimidated because they cannot see the body language of other dogs.

– They say blind dogs shouldn’t swim because they rely so much on their sense of smell and the pads of their feet to feel out texture. In the water those tools are gone and it is distressing to feel themselves in nothingness. Well, Millie didn’t care, last weekend she jumped in the water and swam in our favorite swimming pond upstate.

Millie, fetching in the garden – July 1

Millie – the Sleeping Beauty

When people notice that she has no eyes, they express so much pity, that I worry the dog will pick up on this. They imagine a blind dog as crippled and sad. How deep and old is the relationship between humans and dogs that strangers react so strongly. But when they catch a glimpse of her spirit, they light up. Very soon, all we will see is her heart. When I see that tiny dog overcoming obstacles with such grace and verve, I think she is teaching me to look adversity in the face and bite it!

Millie,  you are one heroic kick-ass bitch!

*for a video update of Millie posted December 2012 go here.

26 thoughts on “the sleeping beauty

  1. This is so wonderful! What a speedy Recovery!! This gives me hope with my blind dog.
    he’s been blind 2 years now.

  2. What an inspirational story of love, trust, and dedication. I love it! Millie is so lucky to have you and visa versa. God bless………..Linda

  3. To my beloved girls: Ileana and Millie: We are all winners! The Sleeping Beauty most of all. She proved that fetching can be done — blind or not. What an inspiration! Blindness is another way of seeing! xo

  4. Millie is really a champion 1000000 of kisses fromKrystal far away from Brasil a 10 years old blid yorkie throwed Away in a park and found with great joy. Blind or not dogs give only pure love

  5. Fanny, thank you for visiting the blog and writing. And many kisses back to Krystal. As my friend Raquel says “Blindness is another way of seeing”.

  6. I was stunned reading this but now that you have emerged on the other side, heart intact, I’ll guess I’ll just say, amen.

    Wishing all of you a full summer of lovely new scents and senses.

  7. Oh my goodness! I don’t know what to say, you poor things. I don’t know what I would do if Sybil had to face that. But how fantastic that she has come through it all and is coping so well. I haven’t had time to visit many blogs recently, and am catching up now that the girls are back at school, so this is a very late comment. But oddly enough my daughters were talking about blindness recently – to do with the Paralympics – and told me all about one of their teachers who had a blind dog. She lived to a ripe old age apparently. I do hope Millie is still doing well.

    • Millie is sitting on my lap now as I write, sniffing the air to see what’s new. She is doing incredibly well. I’ve been getting emails from folks asking how she’s doing. Millie has a fan base, so I’m preparing a post with video. Thank you for your kind words.

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  9. I can’t wait to see Millie’s fetching video! I love your blog, Ileana, what an amazing glimpse of the neighborhood both past and present. See you and the dogs on a walk soon!

  10. What a beautiful resilient dog Millie is! The story broke my heart in the beginning, but this story has a happy ending. You did the right thing. Thanks for sharing, and would love to hear more about her progress.

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  12. I have 2 toy fox terrior and my female lost both eyes 4 months in the between them. She has prosthetic eyes and you forget she can’t see. Other senses took over and she amazes us. My male also lost one eye and the lens is trapped inside his eye with drops. So far so good.

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