Published October 29, 2012
Many visually-impaired people rely on guide dogs to help them navigate their world, but what happens when the one who is going blind is the dog? Sadly, there aren't a lot options. But two Georgia friends are hoping to change that.
Lauren Janis makes treats dogs love, and owners feel good about. They're called "Big Daddy Biscuits," named after her taste-tester.
"If they don't pass his test, they don't go out the door," said Janis.
Big Daddy, an American Bulldog, was rescued off the streets by Lauren's friend Vicki. As he settled into a routine, Lauren noticed it: He was running into things. The reason: he had severe cataracts, and a blinding infection called toxoplamosis.
"That was a hard time, I didn't realize I cried so much realizing he was going to go blind," said Janis.
Veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Stacey Andrew treats a half-dozen blind dogs a week in her clinic at Georgia Veterinary Specialists. Like Big Daddy they often become hesitant, keeping their head down, smelling what they can't see.
Dorie Stratton's dog, "Scottie Boy," is also blind.
"And my husband said, ‘Nobody wants a blind dog!'" and I said, ‘I know! That's why I'm going to go get him,' So I did," she said.
But, right out of the gate they ran into problems.
"He was just having a hard time navigating, and he's bump into things, and he'd cry. And I said, ‘There's got to be something we can do to help him.'" said Stratton.
That's when Dorie called Ellen Burgess, who runs an alterations business,
"She said, ‘I want something that will wrap around his body comfortably, something that will extend beyond his face, to keep him from banging his nose,'" said Burgess.
That's how the "Halo Vest" was born.
After about six weeks, they found the right material, the way to secure it and the right kind of wire for the halo.
"I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, look! It's working, it's working,'" said Burgess.
Moses, a 13-year-oldblind Scottie rescue, was one of their first customers.
"And he got where he'd keep his head down, so it would hit his forehead all the time. But with the vest, it's different because he bounces off. The halo bounces off the furniture," said Dorothy Bugg, Moses' owner.
Each Halo Vest is hand-made, and costs between $35 and $65.
Dr. Andrew says she likes the idea,
"I just think it would be a shame to say, ‘My dog has lost its vision, so I don't want this dog anymore,'" said Andrew.