Cone free, pain free, Ernie's puppy-ness returns

Samoyed owner discusses vets, surgery and living with a blind dog

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18. It has been over two months now since our 1-year-old Samoyed had what we hoped was a piece of dirt in his eye. That hope turned quickly into the reality that our puppy was unique in the worst way possible - glaucoma just after his first birthday.

Courtesy Of Chester Carson
Courtesy Of Chester Carson

As it has turned out, too, aggressive glaucoma. For me, Ernie's "dad," and for my fiancé, his "momma," the emotional ride has been expensive and often depressing.

To recap quickly where we are today: Just over a month ago I decided to stop pretending I was going to consider putting Ernie down, and I accepted that finding some magical family that was looking for a puppy with glaucoma to take care of was a pipe dream. Not having much money was the root of most of our concerns, but for better or for worse, when you love your dog ... hey, I have maintained good credit for a reason, right?

Over the past month, Ernie has flown down to Seattle and back for surgery that he could not have gotten here. My fiancée, who lives in New York where she attends graduate school, turned our spring break time together in Juneau into a week in Seattle taking care of Ernie. Dr. Tom Sullivan at the Animal Eye Clinic in Seattle performed the surgery on Ernie's right eye.

The goal of that whole process was to save vision in Ernie's right eye, even if only for a year or two. It was not a guarantee, but with an 80 percent success rate we wanted to give it a shot. The recovery time, according to Sullivan, was to be about a month. Only then would we know what the result was going to be. We have reached that time frame now, and although neither Sullivan nor our vet here in Juneau has given me the final word. I have accepted that Ernie continues to be unique. It would appear he will be in the 20 percent that the surgery does not work for.

Ernie is blind, and he will be for the rest of his life.

There have been plenty of sleepless nights and lots of tears, but none over the past month. Once we made the decision to try, I had gotten to a place in my own mind of acceptance. Either way. I can tell you that what "they" say is true: Your dog, or puppy, if he or she should lose its sight will amaze you.

Good news has been rare of late for Ernie, but not non-existent. After about three weeks with the dreaded cone of shame hindering his life, he is cone free! That also means he is pain free. Finally.

Slowly, too, we have started to see signs of his puppy-ness coming back. That has been my biggest hope lately, and I miss that Ernie. I miss the Ernie that had more energy than I was always prepared for. I miss the Ernie that would, from time to time, harass his "sister" Emma unmercifully just to try and force her to play with him. I'm hopeful that Ernie is making his way back, sight or not.

That's where we are today. I have debated what the most important aspect of this story is to share, what perhaps the most valuable lesson I have learned that could help another pet owner in the future. Once I cut away all the emotional stuff and the financial dilemma and look at our situation from the outside, I am left with one part of this story I have told to lots of folks already.

No matter what your situation might be, you should feel good about the people in your camp. "The vet" can quickly become your second home when this kind of thing happens. Since February I would estimate Ernie and I have been to "the vet" well over 25 times.

Quite honestly, I was not at peace for the first half of those visits. We finally switched vets, and all I can say now is, "I wish we had followed our instincts to switch from the get-go." Would things have turned out any differently if we had switched earlier? Maybe not. For you, however, the momma or the poppa, feeling good about the folks in your corner is a big deal.

As always, there is so much more I would share if there was space and time. There is not here, but I will continue to update Ernie's story at the usually-movie-related blog Maybe he will prove me wrong and get his sight back yet! If he does, that blog will be the first place I share that info.

I'm also happy to communicate with folks directly about details of Ernie's story or if it is ever needed, to talk to folks that go through something like this with their pet. I know now more than ever how important it is to have an outlet in these situations. Don't hesitate to get ahold of me through that blog, and thanks to all the people who have reached out already.

It means a lot.

• Chester Duke Carson was born and raised in Juneau. He graduated in 2004 from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., and is scheduled to wed his fiancée in Orange County in 2011.

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