Guide dogs are often retriever breeds, due to their loyal and caring nature and ability to be trained.
However, Tao is a golden retriever that needs a guide human, after he lost both his eyes to glaucoma.
Tao had his first eye removed last year after he began suffering what seemed to be excruciating pain.
A trip to the vets revealed the glaucoma, and he was potentially going to be put down, but the surgery was able to go ahead to remove the eye.His owner Mel Jackson, from Shepton Mallet in Somerset, was given drops and managed to keep the condition in the remaining eye at bay for 11 months.
However, it eventually became clear that Tao’s sight was fading so a decision was taken to train him intensely for the day he went completely blind.
Since then, he’s come on incredibly, and when his second eye was removed last year his life didn’t change too dramatically.
53-year-old Mel says: ‘If you can imagine a migraine and times it by a hundred – that was the pain he was in.
It began in February 2019 – we had a normal morning. Everything was absolutely fine. But you just know when the dog is not his normal self.
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‘By the night, he was in the most pain I have ever seen so we took him to the vets.
‘We didn’t have any other choice but to have the eye removed. Then, after a thorough examination, I was made aware that he had it in his second eye.
‘So we monitored it every day, but then he started going in and out of blindness. It wasn’t fair. The word [I would use to describe Tao] would be confused. He was in a lot of pain.’
Tao’s second eye was removed in January this year, at which time he was already trained so well that he could walk off-lead – despite being completely blind.
‘He is amazing. He’s so well trained – he listens to every command.’ says Mel.
‘He can go off-lead and waits if you are by a road. If people are coming he gets close to me and if there’s other dogs off their lead he will be aware of that. He does everything that we have always done.
‘But because he’s a golden retriever and wears a sleeve on his lead saying ‘Blind K9’ people assume I must be the one that’s blind.
‘They say: ‘He must be good for you’. I say: ‘No, I’m his guide human!’.’
Research what type of pet is best suited for your family’s personality and lifestyle. Dogs require more attention, time and energy than cats do, so if you don’t enjoy walks or hikes in the outdoors, or can’t imagine getting up on cold winter mornings to take your pet out to potty, a cat may be more your style.
Mel has done all she can to ease the transition for Tao, including putting in sensory mats outside the door so he knows when he’s going out, and making sure there are plenty of textures in the house for him to feel his way around.
She is also now trying to raise awareness about glaucoma in dogs and prevent other animals and owners from going through the same ordeal.
She said: ‘People who are going to buy puppies – ask the question (whether the litter may be susceptible).
‘It’s taken an immense amount of time and training to get him to this point..’
Do you know an extraordinary animal like Tao? Get in touch at [email protected] .