Thursday, November 11, 2010


I remember when Pitawoman told me about this puppy.  She and I share a love of Great Danes, and because her "Smokey" loved my "Juno", we are in-laws of sorts.  The puppy was deaf and possibly blind.  The breeder was going to euthanize her.  After all, who'd want a 120 pound blind and deaf dog?  Besides, Pitawoman already had two Great Danes, enough pounds in dog food per month to qualify as weight lifting.

Olivia has surpassed all obstacles, from deafness and blindness to recurrent seizures.  She now walks in charity events and visits shut-ins as a pet therapy dog.  Recently, she was nominated as "Dog of the Week" at A Dog's Purpose..  I repeat the entry here as it changes weekly, and there doesn't appear to be a direct link:

Born Deaf and Nearly Blind, Olivia is Now a Service Dog
By PitaWoman

A dear friend of mine that shows and raises Great Danes had a litter in March of 2005.  We had previously gotten 3 danes from her over the years, and had two in our house at that time, so we had no interest in acquiring another.  I had always had an aversion to white dogs, I'm not certain why, but something about them had always kind of freaked me out, especially dogs with pink noses.  So when I saw those two puppies, I had no trouble resisting the urge to cuddle and coo over them.

As the pups were nearing the age of 6 weeks, I was talking to my friend on the phone about watching our fur-babies for us while we went on vacation.  The conversation turned to her small litter and she mentioned that she was taking them to the vet to have their hearing and vision checked, and how she felt almost certain the little girl was deaf &/or blind.  I was still indifferent to the pups, but just making conversation, I asked, "Hmm, how on earth will you go about finding a home for her (or them) if they are disabled?"
She replied, "well, it wouldn't be easy.  In all likelihood, I will have to have her put down."

I gasped in horror at the mere thought.  She continued, "Well, she really wouldn't have any quality of life."

I was still horrified at the thought and somewhat speechless.  Our conversation finally ended and my heart was suddenly aching to give that little girl a chance at life.  I went outside to butter up my husband and ask if we could get another Great Dane.  He thought I needed my head examined, and probably I did, but when I explained the situation, his heart gave-in as well.  The next day I talked to my friend and asked her if she would consider letting us have the pup, she said she need a few days to think about it and would let me know.

When she finally got back to me, we came to an agreement that the little girl would come to live with us and be given a chance, only if I agreed that if the puppy proved to be too difficult to train, house break, or couldn't get along with other dogs and people, then we would do right by her and have her euthanized.  I made the agreement with a determination that I never knew existed inside me.  I was bound and determined to prove that little girl would have a quality life.  I even went a step further and tossed out the idea that maybe one day she could become a therapy pet.

Her vet had determined that she was completely deaf and partially blind.  We took possession of her when she was 9 weeks old.  We decided to name her "Olivia" because our male dane is "Eliott" after the lead detective on "Law & Order: SVU", so we needed an Olivia to complete the detective duo.

Olivia fit in with our family right away and I got over my dislike of pink-nosed white dogs immediately.  She had been born with just a few black and gray spots, and a few more popped out over the next few months, giving her just enough to be recognized as a Harlequin Great Dane.

I wasted no time getting her enrolled in obedience school.  She did well, not the star-pupil by any means, but considering the challenges we both faced, we got through it.  Just to make sure the lessons were reinforced upon both of us and to get her socialized with many different people and dogs, we repeated the course several times over the next year.  When Olivia was 16 months old, I finally took a deep breath and took her to be tested for her Canine Good Citizenship.  She passed with flying colors!!  I was beaming with pride.

Up until now, we would only let her out in the back yard with the other dogs if we were going to accompany her.  We weren't sure what her degree of vision was and didn't want to risk her falling into the swimming pool or falling off the deck.  More often than not though, we tended to just take her out for a walk on a leash instead of letting her run around the back yard.  Besides, if left to run loose with the other dogs, that beautiful white coat wouldn't have stayed white for very long.

We were beginning to discover what her visual limitations were through trial and error.  She has no peripheral vision or depth-perception, no control over her eye movement as her eyes are basically "locked" in position as if she's looking at the floor, and much of what she does see is clouded by the 3rd-eyelid constantly covering most of the pupil.  But she sees well enough to get around and there is certainly nothing wrong with her nose.
The fact that she is 115 lbs. doesn't stop her from being a lap-dog.  When she's not curled up in her own recliner, then she can often be found curled up in the nearest lap.

A couple of years ago, I started taking Olivia out nearly every weekend and participating in either 5k events or charity walks in order to get her used to being approached and petted by strangers of all shapes and sizes, to get her used to walking in crowds and being around bicycles, children in wagons, people in wheelchairs and what-not, all in an effort to prepare her towards becoming a therapy pet.

All the hard work has paid off.  Last year she passed her test and is now a member of Pet Love, Inc. and goes on visits to nursing homes.  Some of the patients are put-off by her size, but many are drawn to her because she's easier for them to love on without having to bend over to reach.

Olivia has heart, literally!  She has a heart-shaped spot on her side, and as a pup also had one on her tail, but as she grew older, that spot grew and blended in with the others around it.  This sweet girl has had her challenges in life, including suffering from occasional seizures. Fortunately, those seem to have subsided, hopefully never to occur again.

Everyone that meets Olivia thinks she's awesome and we feel she's a fabulous ambassador for what can be accomplished with a little time and energy and a lot of love.Not only has she got quality of life, she has added so much quality to our lives!!!  We can't imagine life without her!

Z:  I don't really know..........but I don't think....... you have to pay taxes on your bicycle.
A:  No, riding your bike is free.
W:  You don't have to pay to ride your bike.
A:  (laugh)  'Cause if you had to pay to ride your bike, I'd be, like, broke!


Cloudia said...

What an up-lift for today!!!


Aloha from Waikiki :)

Comfort Spiral



pita-woman said...

All smiles! :)


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