Dutchess was born on January 28, 2003. In the summer of 2010, Dutchess began having difficulty with her eyesight. A visit to Dr. Cory Mosunic, veterinary ophthalmologist, confirmed that she had pigmentary uveitis, an inherited disease that involves inflammation of both eyes. It eventually becomes painful, and when prescription drops are no longer effective, removal of the eyes is the only way to alleviate the pain. Dutchess had her eyes removed on February 1, 2011. Except for catching a tennis ball in mid-air, there is nothing that she did before her vision loss that she cannot do now. She was delighted to return to her therapy dog work just three weeks after her surgery, and she is still the same happy, loving dog that she has always been.
When Dutchess was a six-week-old puppy, she suffered a spider bite on a toe of her left front paw. The spider’s venom caused tissue damage that required surgery, leaving her toe “pulled up”. This is why the pad of that toe does not touch the ground when she walks.
Dutchess works with children and adults with autism. In some cases, she visits classrooms and becomes part of a child’s reading class, assisting with speech goals or other academic endeavors. In other cases, she serves as a positive, calming element, soaking up the attention—and treats—that people give her, helping them ground their static energy and stress. Depending on the individual’s needs, a visit from Dutchess might involve walking, brushing, petting, and feeding her, reading to her, playing fetch with her, or just sitting quietly and enjoying her peaceful demeanor. Her friends with autism have not treated Dutchess any differently since her vision loss; likewise, she treats them with the same warm affection that she shares with everyone else that she meets. Here is a video of Dutchess and some of her canine friends at work.
Like many dogs, Dutchess loves playing fetch. Despite her blindness, she still relishes chasing and retrieving tennis balls in the yard. She uses her keen hearing and superb sense of smell to track down balls that are thrown for her. Here is a video of her playing fetch just one week after her surgery. She also enjoys the sport of K9 Nose Work. She has passed her first “ORT” (odor recognition test), and competed in her first trial in November, 2012. Her other favorite pastimes include eating, sleeping, meeting new people, and being showered with attention. She lives with one human, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sister, Holly, and four cat friends.
Dutchess will be on the Pet Radio Show June 16, 10 am PST, along with the Blind Dog Rescue Alliance