we got not the best news yesterday from the doggie opthamologist. after some funny and some scary tests on liam's eyes we learned liam has progressive retinal atrophy. this was what i suspected, but really almost didn't want to go to the eye doctor and have him confirm it. i was hoping so hard liam just had cataracts and we could get surgery, but i was trying not to make any predictions.
progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA, is a hereditary disease that slowly atrophies the neural retinal structures, beginning with vision loss at night and culminating in full blindness. it makes more sense now that liam has so many little fears; he's become more submissive around other dogs, has a hard time hopping in the car, can't lay on his back, can't look up. liam has had difficulty seeing at night for the past few years, and more recently he's been tripping over things and having trouble finding a stick when we throw it in the ocean.
at the opthamologist liam had to wear some goggles that covered one eye at a time and walk around these heavy suitcases. he did ok with that, while his left eye was a little worse than the right. then we went into a dark room and tried to have liam make his way again around some heavy suitcases. he couldn't do it at all :( . he looked scared and was wondering why we weren't helping him in the dark. next the doctor and assistants put liam on a table (liam trembled as the table moved up and he had to lay on it!) and they put some papers in his eyelids (i don't really know what they were doing), drops in, and then some sort of substance that allowed us to see liam's eyes on the TV when they shined a light into them. it was weird to see liam's eyes so close up, and i was beginning to get really nervous and sweaty. patrick took my hand and i know we were just hoping for the best and wanted this all to be over.
the vet techs left the room and the doctor told us the news. i kinda knew it was coming, but i still felt shock to hear him speak the words that liam will most likely go blind. and there is no treatment. ouch. liam, meanwhile, was just happy to be off the table and wanted some cookies.
i've been feeling really sad and teary since yesterday, and have just been holding liam really close. we took him to the beach right after the appointment and threw a ball in the ocean. we felt really grateful that though liam has trouble finding a ball, he does find it, and still has some vision left. the doctor said he most likely can't see at all at night and in dim lighting, but still has some central vision in his eyes during the day. so we are really celebrating that for now liam can still see. i'm going to cherish our moments together more than ever.
this is rough on us, but we keep trying to hold this all in perspective. the disease won't hurt liam, it's painless, it's not cancer, he's not going to die. and with all the pain and cruelty that goes on in the world everyday, we, and liam, truly are lucky. we have so much love between us all, and that's all we need.
but then my mind wanders from time to time, and i just cry at the thought of our puppy boy not being able to see my face, to wag his tale when he sees me smiling at him, to not be able to see his prized big bone, to not be able to run free in the canyon, to not be able to look out the window at the sun, or see the beauty of a new running trail. i know liam will still feel happy and will adapt to whatever happens, i just love him so much and want him to have the best life possible.
so what we are going to do will be the best we can do. PRA is still a disease that it slightly unpredictable,and research is going on to find a cure. perhaps in liam's lifetime some advancements in stem cell studies will allow us to heal liam's eyes. some dogs with PRA never go 100% blind, and some don't go fully blind for many years. we have to believe liam will be one of those dogs.
after the doctor's yesterday we headed to whole foods and stocked up on good stuff for our boy- vitamin E, vitamin A, lutein, goji berry powder, and lots of kale, carrots, celery for fresh juices. as a lot of you know, liam doesn't eat dogfood. he eats what we eat, and has been for about 4 years. so i hope this already gives liam an advantage. eating fresh, organic, real foods over dried up processed dead kibble has gotta count for something towards healing. everyday liam has a smoothie or fruit or juice for breakfast, kale salad and fish or legumes or pasta or pizza or whatever we end of having for dinner, plus usually something small for lunch. patrick keeps saying if any dog can combat PRA, it's liam.
i do realize this is a genetic disease, but there have been studies showing people fighting those kinds of diseases with a good diet and exercise. alzheimer's is hereditary, but if you lead a life that is active and healthy, there's a good chance you won't get alzheimer's. so we will just wait and see. and in the meantime, we will continue running and hiking everyday, eating healthy, and keeping positive. we're all going to eat even healthier now after this, why not?
i'm going to go now and take my angel puppy guy on a run and treasure every moment of it. today, liam can see, and that is the ultimate gift worth all my joy and gratitude.