A blind dog owner has described the heartbreaking moment she agreed to have her pug undergo surgery to remove his eyes.
“I had previously had a pug called Odie who was with me for 13 years, but he sadly passed away,” Rainey, who lives in Illinois, told Newsweek. “Frank was found wandering along the road in Kentucky and ended up in a kill shelter before being rescued and taken to the Ark Animal Shelter.”
After Rainey adopted him, the two settled into a peaceful co-existence. “He’s a very lazy dog,” she said. “He has no desire to really do anything. He doesn’t chase balls, though he does have a little lamb toy that, if you squeak it, he sings to it.”
But Frank had always suffered from problems with his eyes. “He had an eye ulcer when I got him,” Rainey said. “He was getting treated by the vet when, all of a sudden, he started crying and ended up crying for two days straight.”
Several follow-up appointments later, Rainey was told the devastating news: Frank was suffering from rapid-onset glaucoma and needed to have both of his eyes removed.
“It progresses very fast and…it is extremely painful,” she said. “He just cried and cried and cried.” On January 12, Rainey decided to have Frank undergo the operation.
Frank the pug, who had rapid-onset glaucoma, is seen before an operation to remove his eyes. Holly Rainey
Writing for the Merck Veterinary Manuals, Kirk Gelatt of the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the University of Florida estimates that glaucoma occurs in about 1.7 percent of dogs in North America.
While many of these cases are treatable, Frank’s situation represents a worst-case scenario for any canine with the condition. But this brave pug was not facing it alone. In fact, he had a human companion who knew what he was going through only too well.
In 2016, Rainey suffered a stroke that left her legally blind. “It took away all of my peripheral vision on both sides,” she said. “I still have tunnel vision, but I do not have peripheral vision. So I see, like, if you had a straw in front of each of your eyes, that’s when I see.”
She went on: “It was extremely difficult. It was life-changing for me because I was in my 50s and I was single. I was living in North Carolina. I had a beautiful condo and my life was good. I was self-sufficient and everything was great.”
Rainey’s work in engineering recruitment and later sales took her all over the country. Yet she was forced to stop it after the stroke because she could no longer read contracts and was unable to drive.
But she found strength and resilience from within. After living with her daughter’s family in Denver for a couple of years while attending the Colorado School for the Blind and learning to navigate with a cane and how to prepare food at home, Rainey headed to Illinois, where she previously attended college, to live independently.
Dogs have always been a part of her life, though. “I used to take my dog to work with me,” she said. “I would sit him in a baby stroller while I did presentations.” Rainey has a particular appreciation for pugs and is especially fond of the way they stick to you “like Velcro.”
“They are just the most loving animals,” she said. “They want to be right beside you at all times.”
Frank is pictured at home after his operation. Holly Rainey
Rainey is determined to help Frank as he continues to adapt to his new way of living. “He’s trying to get acclimated to where we live to be able to navigate,” she said. “He’s slowed down tremendously and is walking gingerly to kind of feel out his environment so he’s not crashing into everything.”
Frank is only 5 years old. “I can’t put him down,” Rainey said. “He’s got a whole life ahead of him.”
Though she acknowledges his condition will make things “more of a challenge,” it’s one she’s prepared to meet. “He’s totally blind and I’m partially blind, but we’re going to look out for each other, it’s going to be OK,” she said. “It’s the blind leading the blind.”
Adjustments are already being made around the house, with Rainey planning to get Frank a “miniature crib” to go beside her bed “so that I can hang my arm in it for him to touch.” The main thing, she said, is that after the anguish caused by his eyes, Frank “is in no pain.”
“Even though his eyes are sewn shut right now, he is in zero pain,” Rainey said. “He’s happier now. His little tail wags all the time, and he will always have a very good quality of life as long as I have him.”