Butch lost his eyes in August of 2005. The surgery went beautifully from a technical standpoint, but waking up with no vision at all was traumatic for him. One of the vet techs said that she had held him in her arms after surgery for a long, long time, cuddling all 55 pounds of him to ease his panic as much as she could. The vet acknowledged that it was a difficult experience for Butch and for everybody, and all of them were relieved as the day went on and Butch calmed down. Then, on the second day after surgery, the vet noticed Butch pacing in his kennel and wondered what had made him so agitated again. Finally, he realized that Butch was trying to find the water dish. Once they pointed him in the right direction, he drank his fill and relaxed again.
They let us pick up Butch at the end of the second day, a Friday, so he could get back into familiar surroundings as soon as possible. He walked haltingly and nervously as the vet led him into the room where we waited. His face had been shaved from behind his ears all the way down to his muzzle, and the visible skin was mottled, pink and gray. Because nature designed eyelids specifically not to grow together, even with stitches, his eyelids had also been surgically removed, the edges sewn together with heavy black sutures that resembled eyelashes. He looked pitiful, but then he heard our voices, his whole back end began wagging, and his joy and relief were palpable.
When we were ready to leave, I tried to get Butch to follow me out of the clinic on his leash, but he insisted on going first, his nose to the ground, sniffing for all he was worth, and he led me outside without bumping into a single thing. That turned out to be a fluke. The vet had warned me that Butch obviously had been able to see better before the surgery than any of us had realized, and he said that I would be shocked to find out how much he would have to struggle at first. Still, I wasn’t prepared.
When we got home, Butch charged ahead, crashing and banging into end tables, doorframes, and other obstacles that seemed to multiply in his path. We opened the door to let him outside and he stumbled down the one step, then dashed out into the backyard, running ahead at full speed until he crashed into the fence and bounced off of it, again and again. The surgical bruising on his face was joined by other scrapes and bruises before we could stop him. For several days afterward, we took him outside only on a leash, gradually lengthening it until we were sure he had a healthy respect for his limitations.
Butch learned amazingly quickly how to navigate around the house and the yard. What a relief! And his joyous personality helped immensely to assuage the guilt I felt about putting him through so much trauma. He positively bloomed! In the absence of the pain that must have been worse than we knew, he became livelier than we had seen him in a long time--frisky, playful, affectionate--a thoroughly happy dog.
To be continued...