Ryan Ehlinger optimized

Dr. Ryan Ehlinger of Main Street Animal Hospital

With the holidays approaching, many of us are thinking about giving to others. For a blind person, the gift of sight would be one of the greatest gifts of all. While we cannot provide this, our canine companions can provide help and companionship to blind or low-vision people in a way that enriches both the life of the person and the dog. Today, I would like to share a story with you about one such dog from the North County.
Wisdom is an almost 7-year-old female yellow lab that was raised in Templeton as a puppy for nonprofit organization Guide Dogs for the Blind. Her foster-care provider, Ellen Frost, remembers her as a sweet and loving puppy with a very mellow disposition. Ellen said it was hard to train Wisdom initially because she always wanted to lie down during training. However, Wisdom was able to overcome that habit and was eventually recalled to Guide Dog’s campus in the Bay Area for formal training.
Wisdom underwent eight challenging phases of training with Guide Dogs at their facility and passed with flying colors. Ellen attended Wisdom’s graduation ceremony in person to celebrate as only about 40 percent of the guide dogs in the program make it all the way to graduation. She said there was not a dry eye in the house when the graduating dogs were presented to the community of volunteers and their new service companions.
Wisdom was placed with a senior college student from San Jose State University named Emily. Emily and Wisdom hit it off immediately and formed a really strong bond. When Emily walked for graduation at SJSU, Wisdom wore a matching cap as they walked the isle to retrieve the diploma. After graduation, they stayed in the Bay Area together as Emily pursued her career.
A few years later, Wisdom was brought in to Emily’s veterinarian for evaluation of her eyes and was found to have glaucoma, a painful ocular condition defined by increased pressure within the eye. Glaucoma can cause blindness if not addressed very early and in most cases eventually effects both eyes. Wisdom was referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist for specialty care to try to preserve her vision.
Unfortunately, Wisdom’s glaucoma was not able to be controlled with medications. One of Wisdom’s eyes needed to be removed surgically, which effectively ended her Guide Dog’s role and she would no longer be able to serve Emily. Additionally, there was a significant chance that glaucoma would affect her other eye within half a year. Now, I know what you are thinking. Dr E, this is not a good story! This is a horrible story! This is not making me feel the holiday spirit! But, wait. It does get better!
On learning of Wisdom’s illness, the community around Emily pulled together to support her and Wisdom. The veterinary ophthalmologist offered to adopt Wisdom so that she could provide the best care for Wisdom’s remaining eye and give her a wonderful forever home. Wisdom still lives with her in Santa Rosa to this day. Her other eye is monitored monthly and doing well so far. Guide Dogs arranged for Emily to receive a new graduate named Manilow. Emily, Ellen, Wisdom, and the ophthalmologist attended Manilow’s graduation from Guide Dogs to support Emily. Manilow and Emily are in the Bay Area together today and are doing well. They still stay in touch with Wisdom and the community that rallied around the dog to serve a great cause.
To learn more about Guide Dogs for the Blind, to volunteer, or to donate, please visit guidedogs.com.