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Tag: blind

Did you hear the one about the guide dog in a nudist community?

fowlerandlauraA homeowner’s association at Paradise Lakes Resort doesn’t have weight limits when it comes to human residents, and we guess that’s a good thing — even though the condo community is a clothing-optional one.

But the association’s rules run a little stricter for dogs, including one that bans any dogs over 25 pounds — apparently even when it’s a guide dog that belongs to a legally blind resident of the nudist community.

By now you’ve probably guessed that this can only be happening in Florida, specifically in Lutz, where a homeowner’s association has told Sharon Fowler she needs to get rid of her black Labrador, Laura, or move out, according to a lawsuit.

Fowler filed a lawsuit against the association last year. It was dismissed by one judge, but now that dismissal has been overturned by an appeals court, and Fowler has renewed her fight to keep the dog she says she can’t get around without.

“She helps me to get around curbs and obstacles,” Fowler told the Tampa Bay Times.  “She’s 100 percent necessary to me. She’s my lifeline.”

According to a lawsuit filed last year, Fowler received a letter from the association telling her to get rid of the dog or move out.

The association said the dog violated their weight limits — something that wasn’t pointed out when Fowler filled out an application, disclosing the dog’s weight, when she moved in.

Even when Fowler provided documentation of her disability, the association did not withdraw the notice of the violations, according to the lawsuit.

“I felt demeaned, and I felt degraded,” Fowler said. “I’ve never felt so degraded.”

Her lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages for mental anguish.

“It’s the principle of the fact,” Fowler’s husband, Craig, said. “The board needs to know they cannot bully us around.”

Fowler says she has been told to only walk the dog in specific areas, and stay out of the way of pedestrians. She’s also been told her dog is out of control, which she says is not the case.

“My dog is a highly trained service animal,” she said.

“Paradise Lakes Resort does not discriminate against any person with physical disabilities and does not prevent any person with service animals from visiting the resort,” owner Jerry Buchanan said.

Fowler’s accusations were directed at a homeowners condominium association not connected with the resort.

Fowler says she has a rare autoimmune disease called leukocytoclastic vasculitis, which has already affected her sight and could affect her hearing.

She doesn’t want to move because she has learned her way around Paradise Lakes, and appreciates being able to live in a clothing optional community.

(Photo: Fowler and Laura; by Brendan Fitterer / Tampa Bay Times)

Cecil Williams will keep his guide dog; help pours in after they’re hit by subway train

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A blind man and his guide dog who were struck by a subway train in Manhattan Tuesday will be able to remain together — thanks to donations from members of the public touched by their story.

Cecil Williams fainted and fell on the New York City subway tracks, taking his harnessed dog, Orlando, with him.

Orlando barked for help and stayed by his side, even as the train passed over them.

In a story about the accident that aired on NBC Nightly News Tuesday night, it was reported that Orlando was slated to retire in January, and that Williams lacked the funds to continue to care for the dog afterwards, when the dog would no longer be covered by his insurance.

Since then, enough donations to their cause have been received by Guiding Eyes for the Blind to help pay for all of Orlando’s retirement expenses, and ensure that the pair’s eight-year relationship continues.

williamsand orlandoWilliams, 61, was on his way to the dentist when he fainted at the 125th Street platform. Witnesses said the dog was barking and tried to stop Williams from falling, as he is trained to do. When they both landed on the tracks, Orlando tried to rouse Williams, who was unconscious. Both lay there as a slow-moving subway train passed above them.

Nieither sustained serious injuries.

“The dog saved my life,” Williams said of his Labrador retriever. “I’m feeling amazed. I feel that God, the powers that be, have something in store from me. They didn’t take me away this time. I’m here for a reason.”

Williams, who is on insulin and other medications, was taken to a hospital, where Orlando remains at his bedside.

The Brooklyn man has been blind since 1995. Orlando, his second guide dog, “saves my life on a daily basis,” he said.

At a press conference Williams thanked everyone “for showing their humanity and peace and goodwill” by making donations to the guide dog school that trained Orlando.

“All the people who contribute and donated I think we should take our hat off to them,” he said. “There’s still good people in this world.”

(Photo: Williams and Orlando at press conference; by Carlo Allegri / REUTERS, via NBC)

Dachshund’s blindness doesn’t slow him down

Here’s a quick video update on Ace’s old neighborhood walking buddy, Frank, who went blind a couple of months ago from diabetes.

When first they met, the dachsund’s only problem was being a bit overweight. With exercise and dieting he was trimming down nicely when he was diagnosed with diabetes and, almost overnight, lost his eyesight.

That made him a little hesitant, especially when he was outside, and wary about taking that next step — but only for a few days.

Now, he he tears up the nature trail when he comes over my way for a visit. And, as you can see from this outing to a soccer field, recorded by his owner, he bounds as much as he ever did, if not more. These days, he doesn’t hesitate to go full speed ahead, even when he’s not sure what’s ahead.

Some brotherly love goes viral

jeffreyandjermaine

A story of brotherly love — canine style — has spread from Philadelphia across the world after a shelter volunteer posted a photo of two snuggling pit bulls, one of whom helps his blind brother get around.

The photos of Jermaine and his blind brother Jeffrey have received more than 3.2 million views.

Kimberly Cary, a volunteer with the Chester County SPCA posted pictures on Facebook late last week of the  8-month-old puppies, their legs wrapped around each other as they slept at the shelter.

“It has just touched the hearts of people all around the world,” Tom Hickey, a board member with the Chester County SPCA, said Sunday

jandj2The 35-pound strays were rescued from the streets of West Philadelphia Oct. 5 and placed in Operation Ava’s no-kill shelter on North Third Street, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Jeffrey is completely blind in one eye and probably sees only shadows in the other. He leans on Jermaine and follows him around when they are in unfamiliar territory. The pair is considered inseparable.

“These guys are bonded, and Jeffrey really is dependent on Jermaine at this point,” said Ray Little, lifesaving director of Philadelphia’s Operation Ava animal shelter. “When they are separated, they get really insecure.”

As of Sunday afternoon, no one had completed an application to adopt the brothers, but people from as far away as the U.K. were expressing a desire to take them in.

“I wish people realized that just because you’ve seen them doesn’t mean they’ve been adopted,” said Cary, 28, who posted the Facebook photos Thursday and Friday on the request of Operation Ava. “They still need somebody to come rescue them.”

Jermaine and Jeffrey both had mange when they were rescued, but they are “happy” and in “very good health now,” Little said.

The dogs will be held at Operation Ava until they are adopted as a pair.

“They obviously have some sort of innate bond,” said Emily Simmons, executive director of the Chester County SPCA, “and it will be wonderful to see them adopted together.”

To learn more about adopting the pair, contact Operation Ava at 215-240-1240.

(Photos:  Chester County SPCA)

Man and his guide dog hiking 1,000 miles

A legally blind North Carolina man and his guide dog are hiking a thousand miles for charity.

Trevor Thomas, of Charlotte, and his guide dog, Tenille, set out on April 6, hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is where Tenille came from.

“The dogs are very expensive, the school receives absolutely no public funding at all,” Thomas said. “It’s all done on donation.”

blindhikerThomas, who calls himself “Zero/Zero,” a reference to his eyesight, was the first blind person to complete a solo hike of the entire 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

He has also completed two hikes through the Shenandoah Mountains, four through the Smokey Mountains, and, according to his website, is the first blind person to hike the length of the John Muir Trail in California.

“Getting Tennille was probably the best decision I’ve made since going blind,” Thomas said. “She has changed blindness from a negative to a positive, especially in my interaction with people. Now that I have Tennille people want to engage us, they want to find out more about this amazing dog that I have.

“She is literally the final piece in the puzzle to be able to undertake this trek working as a team, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to get from one end of this to the other. Just the sheer companionship alone is worth its weight in gold,” he added. “Tennille’s not only a guide, she’s a friend.”

For more information about his hike, visit blindhikertrevorthomas.com

Hero shelter dog finally finds a home

Nala, a pit bull-Labrador mix living at an animal shelter in Washington state, made headlines in December when she helped save another dog — a blind cocker spaniel she found freezing to death in a ditch while on a walk with a shelter staffer.

Despite the publicity and her newfound hero status, no one stepped forward to adopt Nala — who has what the Humane Society of Redmond describes as “some behavioral issues” – and, as of March, her stay at the shelter had stretched to a year.

This month, though, there was one more publicity push by the shelter, which established a Facebook page for Nala — and that helped lead to her adoption this week by Janet Roberts, 63, the Bend Bulletin reports.

A week ago, the Humane Society teamed up with a photographer, held a photo shoot with Nala and created a Facebook page for the dog. Reese Mercer, a board member, provided “first person” updates, from Nala’s perspective, about her hunt for a home.

As a result, Nala had fans from as far away as Finland, all of them rooting for her to find a home — but few of them volunteering to provide one.

Nala’s new caretaker, a court transcriber who lives on 80 acres in Powell Butte, first heard about Nala’s story in December. When she learned Nala was still without a home months later, Roberts offered to take her home for a trial visit. Roberts has four cats, two horses and an older dog. The dog spent the night Tuesday, and the next morning, Roberts decided it was for keeps.

“She was ever so sweet, and fit in really well,“ said Roberts. “She was so respectful of everyone here … She really wants to please people, which is really endearing,” said Roberts.

The official adoption took place Thursday.

“It’s going to be tough to say goodbye,” said Alan Borland, the shelter staff member who was walking Nala when she found the cocker spaniel.

Borland told the Bulletin the couple that the Roberts family has invited him to come visit Nala, but said he probably won’t.

“She needs to get on with her life, and forget about the year she spent at the shelter,” he said.

(Photo: From Nala’s Facebook page)

Rolling Dog Ranch finds greener pastures


Three years after we first met them at their home in Montana, we hooked up with some old friends Monday — in New Hampshire.

We reunited with Travis, who, due to a rare disease, has a jaw that’s fused shut; with Patti, who lost both of her eyes when she was assaulted with a shovel; and with Soba (above), whose neurological disorder, known as cerebellar hypoplasia, makes getting from one place to another an arduous task as she wobbles, flails and jerks about. 

Oh, and we reconnected with some human friends, too –  Steve Smith and Alayne Marker, who this year faced an arduous task of their own — moving their Rolling Dog Ranch, a sanctuary for disabled and unwanted animals, from a sprawling spread in golden Montana to much greener pastures in Lancaster, New Hampshire.

I first met the couple in 2007, during a stint as a visiting professor at the University of Montana. 

I visited their ranch to see the work they were doing with animals– most of them blind, all of them deemed useless, too handicapped to have a life of any quality and destined to be put down. 

Rolling Dog Ranch in Ovando was a beautiful place — in part because of its setting on 160 acres under Montana’s big sky, in larger part because it showed those doing that deeming that they were as wrong as they could be. 

Steve and Alayne bought the ranch in Montana while both still worked in Seattle for Boeing — he in the communications department, she as a lawyer. They’d planned to take early retirement and start a sanctuary for disabled animals. They got tired of waiting for their dream, though, and ditched their jobs.

They packed up their own dogs and moved to Montana. They named the ranch Rolling Dog, after the way their own dogs gleefully rolled in the grass there every time they visited. 

The ranch opened, slightly earlier than planned, in 2000, when Steve and Alayne were asked to take in a blind horse. Seven years later, it served as home to 80 animals – 40 dogs, 10 cats and 30 horses, 25 of which are blind. It is funded through donations from the public.

After 10 years in Montana, though, the couple decided to head east. The ranch’s remoteness, Montana’s harsh winters, difficulties finding employees, rising gas prices, and the hour-plus drives to the closest cities of Missoula and Helena were among the reasons for relocating.  

On the Internet, they scoped out possible new locations for the sanctuary, and, after finding one they liked in New Hampshire, just outside of Lancaster, bought it and began making the necessary improvements — like ramps at all the entrances — all while choreographing what would be a complex move.

There were tons of supplies and equipment to be shipped across the country; ten horses, all but two of them blind; 35 dogs with assorted disabilities, the five barn cats and five tons of Montana hay — so that the horses could make a gradual transition to New Hampshire hay and grass.

“It went about as good as you could expect,” Steve said. “The dogs just did wonderfully. There were some people saying it would be too hard on the animals, but what people forget is that these animals have already been through a lot, and that they came to us from all over the country. After coping with something like losing your vision, it’s not a problem to travel to New Hampshire.”.

Altogether, it took 17 trips. Steve toted seven dogs across country; Alayne took five, including Soba.

In Lancaster, they’re only three miles from town and a veterinary clinic. They started taking in new animals in May, including Fuzzy, a blind terrier from Louisiana who arrived the day before my visit.

A sweet little bundle, he seems as happy as he can be, and — not for the first time on this trip — I had the urge to take on a second dog.

He was small enough that he could squeeze in with Ace in the back seat. And, like all the animals at Rolling Dog Ranch, he seems to have adapted magnificently to his — and this is the wrong word for it – disability. 

I stopped myself though, realizing that, cute as he is, he’ll probably get adopted easily. 

Rolling Dog Ranch, while it does make some of its animals available for adoption, is generally not a place where animals are briefly harbored until homes are found. 

Most often, it’s a place they come to live out the rest of their days. 

Dogs like Spinner, who was sound asleep on a bed outside the front door when Steve quietly leaned over and blew in the dog’s direction. 

Spinner — though both blind and deaf — woke up and walked straight to him, operating on scent alone.

Spinner has a rare condition known as restrictive strabithmus — her eyeballs don’t face forward, but point instead to the back of her head. Attempts to have it corrected surgically weren’t successful. 

Three other dogs I’d met in Montana back in 2007 all seemed to be faring well.

Soba, a collie mix, was one of two pups that came to Rolling Dog Ranch from a humane society in Iowa — both born to a mother who when pregnant, got distemper. As a result, some of her pups were born with the neurological disorder. It takes Soba a while to get where she’s going, almost as if each leg has a mind of its own. 

Patti, who lost both of her eyes after being attacked with a shovel, was as lovable as ever. She sniffed me out and leaned into me for a good scratching. 

And then there was Travis, who ended up at Rolling Dog Ranch after being left tied to a veterinary clinic door in Spokane. Vets determined that he had a rare muscular disease that went untreated for so long that his jaw fused shut. 

Surgeons could find no solution to his problem, other than feeding him through a tube inserted in his stomach. For months, Steve and Alayne fed him that way. Then one day they noticed that, with effort, he could stick his tongue out through a small opening between his teeth on one side of his mouth. 

They began feeding him with a bowl, running the food through a blender first so that he could slurp it up.

Malnourished and lethargic when he arrived, Travis became more and more lively. Three years later, I could see he has filled out some, and is probably one of the more energetic dogs at the ranch. 

A playful sort, Travis gets excited when visitors come, and tends to show off one of his tricks. He’ll go over to his water bowl, suck in a bunch of water, then approach the visitor and exhale, spraying him, elephant style, with water.  Seeing them all again was just as inspiring as meeting them the first time. 

And Rolling Dog Ranch’s new headquarters seems a perfect spot — from its setting amid 120 acres of rolling hills to the home’s large solarium that Steve and Alayne have devoted to the blind dogs. In the morning, it fills up with sunshine. 

The dogs can’t see it. 

But they can feel it.

(To read more “Travels with Ace,” click here.)

(To contribute to Rolling Dog Ranch, or learn more about its animals, visit its website: rollingdogranch.org.)

We all need somebody to lean on


Among the dogs we met in Charlotte during our visit to The Dog Bar, were Skyler and Pierce, two white Great Danes who — one being half blind, one being deaf, neither having the distinct black markings harlequin Great Danes are supposed to have — were headed to the kind of future “defective” dogs often face.

Namely, no future at all.

They were part of a larger litter that turned out to be unprofitable. All the pups were affected by a strain of distemper — but because of their additional handicaps, Skyler and Pierce, the breeder decided, couldn’t even be given away, and therefore should be put down.

That’s when Laura Moss and Fred Metzler stepped in. Laura was working at an animal emergency clinic at the time. The litter of Great Danes ended up there. She already had three dogs at home, so she asked Fred, her friend of several years, to adopt the two future-less siblings.

Fred, a sales manager for a company that makes automatic doors, agreed. But, because he traveled a lot, he often called upon Laura to pet sit the duo — Skyler, the deaf one, and Pierce, the blind one — when he was out of town.

At Fred’s house, Laura noticed, the two pups — as they did at the hospital — continued to stay at each others’ sides. When they went to sleep, Skyler would lay her head on top of Pierce.

“That way, if he hears something, he’ll react. Then she’ll be the police dog and go check it out. They’ve been that way since they were babies,” Laura said. “There’s no way we could separate them.”

Skyler, named for her sky blue eyes, is 106 pounds; Pierce, named, for his handsomeness, after actor Pierce Brosnan, is 175 pounds. Despite their handicaps, they manage, with help from each other, to do all that dogs do.

Fred and Laura have come up with a system of sign language to communicate with Skyler, including more than 20 commands. The two dogs have become a striking and familiar sight in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. They even march in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And they get along fine with Laura’s other dogs — a miniature pinscher named Jade, a Boston terrier named Halley and a dalmatian named Dax, who she also brought home from the animal hospital. His former owner dropped him off and, once learning he had heartworm, never picked him up.

Since she talked him into adopting the dogs, Laura and Fred have become a couple, and now share a residence with all five of their dogs.

Laura doesn’t give the Great Danes full credit for bringing two humans together — but maybe, on some level, the relationship between the two big white dogs represents a lesson to be learned: Having someone in your life you can turn to, and depend on, and whose strengths can compliment your weaknesses, has its advantages.

Or maybe that’s reading too much into it.

“The friendship is what brought us together,” Laura says, “but the Great Danes didn’t hurt.”

Roadside Encounters: Ladybug, etc.

Names: Clancy, Brighton and Ladybug

Breeds: Labrador and golden retrievers

Ages: Various

Encountered: At a Starbucks in Winston-Salem

Headed: In the short term, home from Georgia. But Ladybug is being raised to be a guide dog. So were Clancy and Brighton, but they didn’t make the cut.

Background: At first glance, seeing two dogs at her feet and a puppy in a crate on the ground next to her, I thought Karen Carey might be a dog broker, hoping to move some merchandise outside Starbucks. Turns out she’s an attorney in Winston-Salem who has been raising potential guide dogs for years. Ladybug is the seventh she’s taken in.

Having worked with two different guide dog organizations, Carey raises and socializes the pups (hence the Starbucks trip) until they are ready to go off to school and, upon completion, get an assignment. Like our friend Cheyenne, they don’t always have what it takes – as was the case with Brighton and Clancy, both of whom Carey went on to adopt as her own.

Blind Sinkhole Sam needs a home

The Arizona Humane Society is seeking a home for a blind dog who fell into a 20-foot sinkhole.

Now dubbed “Sinkhole Sam,” the dog was rescued from the hole in March after children heard his cries. Humane Society officials say that, other than being blind, Sam was found to be in good health.

An eye doctor confirmed his blindness and also diagnosed him with glaucoma. Both his eyes were removed by a veterinarian to ease pressure and avoid complications later in life, KTAR in Phoenix reported.

Sam, a four-year-old Australian shepherd-chow mix, will be available for adoption beginning at 11 a.m. today at the Sunnyslope Facility located at 9226 N. 13th Ave., Phoenix.

“Sam is a resilient dog who has persevered through a tough couple of months,” said Kimberly Searles, spokesperson for the AHS. “His sweet personality has won the hearts of our staff and we just know he’s going to make a great pet for someone.”

The adoption fee is $110 and includes neutering, the first set of vaccinations, leash, collar, ID tag and a free follow-up veterinary exam.

To view other animals available for adoption at the Arizona Humane Society, visit azhumane.org

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