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A home for the blues

From Animal Sheltering magazine May/June 2014

On a blustery February day in 2013, our humane officers Tim Harland and Shannon O’Herron responded to an emergency call about a neglected puppy. They arrived to find a 7-week-old cane corso-pit mix puppy with a severe eye condition who weighed less than 10 pounds. His owners were unable to afford care and asked us to rescue him so he could receive needed medical treatment and proper food and shelter.

We brought him to the shelter and placed him in the isolation unit of our on-site surgical suite. He was suffering blindness due to ulcers and abrasions on both eyes, possibly due to a rupture in his infancy. We named him Blues Clues after the cartoon dog, as he was a gentle little boy with a sweet persona who quickly won over staff’s hearts.

After a month of unsuccessful treatment for his eye problem, we determined Blues Clues would never regain sight in either eye and would likely suffer painful glaucoma and other health issues in the future. We did not want this for our little friend and decided, in an effort to prevent future disease and increase his quality of life, to remove both his eyes. Our staff veterinarian, Melisa Kauffman, performed a bilateral enucleation (double eye removal), and neutered and microchipped little Blues. After he recovered from surgery and passed his behavioral assessment, Blues Clues was ready to be adopted!

We posted a video about Blues Clues which reached more than 40,000 people. Many came to see the adorable puppy with a hard start at life, but most of them worried the challenges of owning a blind puppy would be too difficult to undertake.

Blues started developing bad manners, a common challenge with any puppy growing up in a shelter environment. Our staff worked diligently to improve his mental health and show adopters blind dogs can learn cues like every other dog. We gave him toys to provide mental stimulation and redirect his rambunctious behavior. Staff then implemented positive reinforcement training, and Blues Clues quickly learned basic commands.

In April, a woman came into the shelter looking for a new addition to her family. Within minutes she fell in love with Blues Clues and wanted to adopt him. After seeing so many people visit Blues Clues but ultimately select another dog to adopt, our adoption counselors encouraged her to put an adoption hold on him and discuss his needs with her family to see if he would be a good match. They also discussed training techniques for blind dogs and supplied instructional handouts.

Later that day, her family came to the shelter to meet Blues Clues. They were instantly smitten. Two months after we took him in, Blues Clues found a new, loving home. We were so excited to care for him throughout his journey!


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About the Author

Laura Shank is the Director of Development for PAWSibilities, the Humane Society of Greater Akron in Akron, Ohio.