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Marbles – and the story of how being blind isn’t a handicap

Since Marbles came into my life, Christmastime will now always make me think of him. It was early October of 2019, when his picture made its way across my computer – this dopey looking white and tan mutt, with big googly, cartoon-like eyes. He was down at the city shelter, ACCT, in Philadelphia, and was posted as urgent due to being blind. A shelter is no place for a blind puppy. As soon as I saw his little face, I knew I could help – I definitely have a soft spot for pups with handicaps. I like to call them ‘handi-capable’, and Marbles was no exception!

Anyone who meets Marbles ends up with a smile on their face. He is just so JOYFUL. He honestly is one of the happiest dogs I have ever met in my life. As soon as I met him, we were best friends – he took no time at all to figure out how to navigate our house and our yard. This completely blind dog would RUN – full speed – through our yard. Every time I would cringe waiting for him to crash head long into something (which he sometimes did, lol). But he was so smart, he had figured out the spacing in the yard and knew just when it was safe to run, and when he had to slow it down. He also loved hiking!! He learned quickly our cues of when to ‘slow’ or ‘take it easy’, and most importantly ‘stop!’ He went hiking as he did all things – at full speed. He figured out how to climb in and out of bed as well, and knew just where his food bowl was. He melted seamlessly into our lives within a few days, and got along wonderfully with our dogs.

Medically, I knew there was no saving his eyes. They were enlarged and had multiple abnormalities, including having glaucoma in both of them. I wanted to be sure that there was nothing we could do, so we consulted with an ophthalmologist who agreed that this was likely a congenital abnormality, and that unfortunately his blindness was definitely permanent. After a few weeks of attempting eye drops to control his glaucoma and elevated pressures, we made the difficult decision to remove his eyes. The eye pressures kept reading high despite our best efforts, and I was worried it was causing chronic pain. I knew they weren’t doing him any good anyway – he couldn’t see out of them! But still removing them feels so dramatic and so…permanent. You will all be shocked to know I cried about it, for several days, before being ok with the decision. Ultimately, I knew it was the right decision for him, it was just a difficult one to make.

As you can probably expect, I made Dr Heller do the surgery. It’s always hard for me when I am very emotionally invested in the patient, so she is my go-to surgeon for this type of thing. And of course, she delivered – he came through the surgery beautifully, and healed up just as beautifully. It took some getting used to, adjusting to him not having eyes, but honestly he’s just as cute this way as he was with his big ole’ googly eyes.

As Christmas approached and Marbles healed, our attention turned to finding him a home. Though he was shared a ton on social media and everyone fawned all over him, we knew it was going to be hard to find the right home for him. We kept sharing and sharing him, until one day an application came in from a family who saw his picture and fell in love. I reached out to them and we started talking about all of his needs – I was very protective of my blind little angel, so wanted to make sure they were truly going to be the right ones for him! Once they met him, I knew they were the ones! They all fell in love, and we coordinated to do a dog meet to make sure he would get along with their pups. The dog meet was so stressful for me – he struggled meeting new dog friends sometimes because he can’t see them to read social cues. But we got them through the initial meeting, and they felt confident that they could continue to settle him in.

Fast-forward to 2 years later. Marbles is happy and thriving!! His amazing family recently brought him by the practice so I could say hello, and he is still so joyful and they adore him so much. He even has his own IG account, and he happily bounced around our waiting room getting love from his adoring public on his visit! Marbles is a wonderful example of the resilience of dogs. He has NO idea that he is abnormal. He has no idea that all dogs can’t see, or that being blind is a handicap. And honestly even if he did, I don’t think he would care. He accepts his handicap and thrives anyway. He is a shining example of not letting our setbacks define us – of succeeding even when we shouldn’t, and of finding joy in the world around us. Merry Christmas world, from Marbles – I’m so thankful he came into our lives, and that his wonderful family opened their hearts to him! May we all learn something from him and his joyful spirit, especially this holiday season!

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