Rose, my now 6 yr old Border Collie, came to me as a “kennel crazy” shelter dog who bloomed into an outgoing vivacious girl. Her issues with pressure, discomfort with close proximity of people, fear of the world, and bite first, ask question’s later attitude made her a training challenge. Unfortunately she was a holy terror on sheep and suicidal on cattle. So Rose became my agility prospect instead.
At the age of 5 1/2 yrs Rose had finally run in her first NADAC agility trial and thrilled me with her confidence in this new environment. She even brought home some ribbons although I prevented her from getting any qualifying legs (I had just gotten off crutches less than 2 weeks before).
That fall she seemed to have issues seeing in low light and was sometimes easily startled resulting in some minor biting incidents. It was quite horrifying that Rose didn’t seem to trust me after years of training and had backslid into biting. Shortly thereafter Rose began falling off contact equipment, knocking bars, missing cues, and becoming lost in agility class. When Rose couldn’t find me after a rear cross or stared blindly around after a front cross I knew something was definitely wrong. At home she ran into trees, walls, parked cars, and other dogs.
A March trip to the opthamologist resulted in a diagnosis of Early Immune Mediated Retinopathy and a differential diagnosis of early SARDs. The term “Early” simply refers the fact that Rose has some vision left. Both IMR and SARDs are autoimmune diseases. In plain language, Rose’s immune system was attacking/destroying her retinal cells. The retina is located in the back of the eye, is made up of cells called rods/cones, and takes in all the information that becomes vision in the brain. In IMR it is believed that some vision can be restored with immunosuppressive drugs and the disease progression can be slowed. In SARDs immunosuppressive drugs are used to slow the disease but no lost vision can be regained.
Rose was started on immunosuppressants and her vision seemed to improve after about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the improvement was temporary. Rose’s vision began backsliding again in July and she was permanently retired from agility. Her night-blindness became worse and she became more easily startled.
Luckily, dogs are able to adapt in many ways. Lights are now left on for Rose while I’m at work so she is less startled by my arrival home. Rose seems to use Loki and I as navigational tools while hiking off-leash in the woods. While walking up/down stairs she leans against Loki’s side. When we go hiking in new locations Rose will velcro herself to my side until she has a good idea of the terrain. Then she’ll dash off at full speed.