The Amazing Ciara

9 April 2015.  2.00PM.    41 F.    Overcast

Just a few weeks before we emigrated to the US in 2009, I had bought several dogs as I knew we would need/want to have a bigger pool of running dogs than we were bringing with us from the UK. One of those dogs, still a pup at the time, was Secondwind’s Ciara.

Getting settled in Alaska
Getting settled in Alaska
traning sept13
Ciara, lying down after a run

She is a little firecracker of a dog, full of vitality and imagines she is about twice the size she actually is, judging by the challenges she issues to the other dogs. She earned a spot in the training group and was passable as a working sled dog.

Running with the team on sleds
Running with the team on sleds

In August 2012, she was diagnosed with glaucoma in her left eye and with a rigorous regime of medications and drops, we were able to keep the eye pressure down to an acceptable level for several months. However, as time went on, the pressure started to creep higher and higher until we were left with no real option for relief, other than enucleation.  In May 2013, she had that eye removed by the vet. Once she had recovered from the surgery, she was, very quickly, back up to her usual tricks and foolishness.

one eye
Post op recovery

Not entirely unexpectedly, apparently over 80% of dogs who develop glaucoma in one eye will go on to have it occur in the other eye, but dishearteningly all the same, she did indeed start to have eye issues in her right eye in late December 2014. Despite immediate treatment, it quickly became obvious that she had lost the sight in her remaining eye. Repeated tonometry tests showed that we were not reducing the eye pressure with the medications, and as she has already lost  her sight, there was no real reason for not carrying out the enueclation. Other than the fact it was January, it was -30F and having a dog with a large area of shaved fur in those conditions is far from ideal. However, we opted to ahead with the operation and Ciara came home for her post-op care and recovery.

We cleared much of the furniture from our bedroom, to enable her to move around without bumping into things and one of us spent much of  the next 4 weeks in there with her. What amazed both of us was how quickly she adapted and how confident she seemed when being taken out for her walks and toilet breaks. We adopted the word “easy” as our warning word for her that she was approaching a hazard, such as the stairs on or off the deck, the woodpile or the BBQ. Her response was amazing – after the first couple of incidents, she grasped the association and on hearing “easy” would slow right down and start extending her front legs in longer, exaggerated strides, feeling for trouble ahead.

Still able to explore and wander.
Still able to explore and wander.

We contemplated her future at length. Could she become a house dog, and live in harmony with some of our more troublesome inhabitants? A couple of them have less than stellar reputations for sociability. We were also concerned that she would have issues with the deck, stairs and if I’m being honest, her own chippy attitude contributing to starting nonsense. When she first lost her sight, she was living in a pen with Rimi. Not exactly a calm dog, Rimi has earned a reputation as being a bit of a headcase. Generally, he was fine with Ciara, but there was the occasional squabble. Amazingly, he somehow sensed or knew that Ciara was now different and he gave her much more space and no longer pushed her aside to get to us. It also was apparent that she had learnt her way around that pen, she could jump onto her house, and when loose, was quite adept at wandering around, avoiding the swivel posts, and seemed to like dozing in the large, communal box. With her wound now fully healed, the fur mostly back in place and strangely mild temperatures, it seemed a good time to see how she would cope, back in the pen she had become familiar with. Rimi had been given another companion, while Ciara was recovering. Mermaid, at 11, was just retired from our running pool this Fall, and still thinks she is a young thing, with all of that bounce and attitude. In many ways, she’s a fine match for Rimi, she’s as hyper as him but has a bit of savvy and knows how to sort him out. We reshuffled the yards, and put Ciara back in with Rimi and returned Mermaid to her original spot. Over the next few days, it became apparent that while Ciara enjoyed being outside, and could often be seen basking in the sunshine, she wasn’t entirely comfortable around Rimi. Equally, he seemed less than happy, having lost his playmate.

So, we moved Mermaid back in with him, and decided to try Ciara living with Trouve. Trouve is a big Alaskan husky we took in as a rescue dog a few years ago. He had some trust issues and was a bit of a fighter, liking to get his retaliation in first, but over time, he has become much more relaxed and settled. It seemed like a good match and so it has proved. He, like Rimi, seems to be aware that Ciara is a “special case” and has behaved impeccably around her. Now, several weeks later, she is free running around the big exercise yard every day with 2 or 3 other dogs and if it wasn’t for the occasional stumble, or the odd time she bumps into the fence, you would never know she cannot see.

She can easily tell where we are, despite a lack of vision.
She can easily tell where we are, despite a lack of vision.

She has constantly amazed us – nothing seems to faze her – each obstacle and setback she suffers, seems to be such a minor thing to her and yet we have stressed and worried endlessly. She has set us a fine example to follow.

Inner peace is accomplished by understanding and accepting the inevitable contradictions of life—the pain and pleasure, success and failure, joy and sorrow, births and deaths. Problems can teach us to be gracious, humble, and patient.
Richard Carlson


One thought on “The Amazing Ciara

  1. Hi pete, What an amazing story, I’m glad that you’ve supported her and, like you, amazed at how she’s coped. Makes the rest of us feel ashamed! All the best.



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