Over the last five years, Finn has been gradually stealing our hearts and has earned a spot as a solid member of our family. My daughter spent hours selecting the perfect puppy, and our sweet cocker spaniel was her loyal companion through her high school years. And now he’s there for my son going through his.
Often Finn sits in his regal stance on the landing, a frozen sentry with a stoic look on his face. If we rush up to him to press our nose against his, he remains motionless and appears unfazed by our efforts to distract him. When he’s in the backyard, he’s playful and peppy, chasing and barking at baby birds and bunnies. And in the kitchen he is patient, waiting for a scrap to fall on the floor, careful not to be so obvious that he gets into trouble for begging.
Finn is always in a great mood, loving and attentive. As the garage door alerts him of our arrival, he is there to greet us. Even when he is sound asleep on the landing in the morning we can see that tail start to pick up speed and then the rest of his body comes to life for a full “good morning” as we make our way down the stair.
When we watch TV, he watches us. He’ll wait until we’re comfortable, and then press his floppy ears into our hands with hopes of a little massage.
This spring, the high pollen counts seemed to slow Finn down a bit, and we noticed his eyes were swollen and red. We took him to the veterinarian, where he was assessed and we learned that he probably has allergies. Drops were given to relieve some pressure in his eyes, and we avoided the outdoors except for trips to the bathroom.
When we brought him back two weeks later for a follow-up, the vet suggested that we take him to the animal emergency room. At the time, for a farm girl like me, it felt a bit Johnson County-ish to have him sent to the ER for allergies.
At the Eye Care for Animals specialist we were told that our treasured pup had glaucoma. I wondered aloud if this meant laser surgery — like it often does for humans. Worried looks were exchanged between doctor and assistant, the first sign that problems were worse than expected. I thought I heard the doctor say, “His left eye pressure is very elevated and has been for a while. It is likely that he will lose that eye.” Apparently he didn’t understand we just came in to have Finn’s allergies tested — how could we be talking about losing his eye? Glaucoma? He was just 5 years old.
Wisely we were given the weekend to administer drops to see whether we could bring down the pressure. We were warned that he was probably already blind in his left eye.
All weekend we obsessed over trying to save his eye. We diligently served up his carefully timed meds (11 eye drops and three pills, every day) and hoped that we weren’t too late. We gently waved our hands over both eyes or did other simple tests to check for signs of vision loss. A quick Internet search confirmed what the doctor had told us. Glaucoma must be detected early to prevent loss of vision. Blindness can occur when the pressure gets too high, and at that point it is not reversible.
By the time we went back the next week to have the doc reassess how things were going, we knew what had to be done. We scheduled the surgery for the next day. The bills would total more than $2,500 for diagnosis and the removal of his eye, but we were assured it was the best thing. By this time Finn had been miserable for weeks.
When we picked him up after surgery his eyelid was shaved, bruised and sewn shut. He was drugged and disoriented. He wore a cone to prevent him from scratching the stitches open. It took nearly a week before we recognized our Finn. By the end of the second week, he was happier than we have ever seen him. He had endured eye pressure discomfort for weeks, and then surgery and now was finally pain-free. He was acting like a puppy; bounding around completely unaware that he has lost sight in one eye.
Just one more hurdle to go. Although the right eye was currently OK, the doctor worried that it would be genetically predisposed to the same fate as the left. Testing had been done to determine whether this was the case and when he was in getting his sutures removed we learned the results. The other eye, unfortunately, is headed down the same path.
In an attempt to delay the inevitable, we will be administering drops every day to prolong the health of that eye so that, with any luck, he might possibly enjoy his sight for his lifetime.
Our Finn, while he was cute before, is even more beautiful now. He is, in fact, kind of cool. As my son says, “he’s our own unique little one-eyed dog.” If you see him around the neighborhood he’s the one with a smile and a wink.
Freelance columnist Lori Allen writes in this space once a month.