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Blind Dog Must Learn New Tricks

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RALEIGH — Lea Slaton is one of those people who cannot turn her back on an animal in need. Four years ago, she rescued a dog from abandonment and starvation.

Now, a newly identified tick-borne illness has Slaton coming to the rescue again.

"I got up to let the dogs out, and she came out and was bumping into furniture. Obviously she couldn't see, and her pupils were dilated," said Slaton.

Blood tests showed Peanut had Ehrlichiosis, a sickness similar to lyme disease and is also transmitted by ticks.

Thursday, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that certain ticks carrying the disease can also infect humans. Slaton says she cannot figure out how it happened to Peanut.

"I've never pulled a tick off of her. She's an indoor dog, a couch potato dog," explained Slaton.

Now, Peanut must learn to rely on her other senses

"We leave the TV on during the day so she has a reference point," said Slaton.

An upstairs rug is a clue to the stairway, but the voice and touch of her master is the best guide of all.

"We've got big plans. I think I want to be the Eunice Shriver for dogs with disabilities," said Slaton.

Peanut has won national awards for obedience, but this old dog is having to learn new tricks.

"They can be trained, and they can adapt, and they can do most of the things that they did before. I guess I have a special feeling toward her, because I physically rescued her. She's a companion, and being blind doesn't change that," said Slaton.

Slaton found a great deal of support and information from other owners of blind dogs on the Internet.


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