Blind dog can still find his favorite things

Moogan the dog looking up with a toy between his front feet
When he was younger, Moogan’s vision started to fail, but he doesn’t let anything slow him down.
By Sarah Thornton

Walking through Dogtown at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, it’s all eyes on you. All the  curious canines want to see what all the hubbub is, and maybe add to it with their own barking. After all, you could be coming to give them treats or take them on a car ride, and they want to be ready. And when you get down to Moogan’s yard, it’s much the same, although he might be a bit quieter than his neighbors.

His ears perk up as he trots up to the fence, tail waving slowly behind, and he’ll point his nose right at you. If someone didn’t tell you, you’d probably never know that he can’t really see you all that well.

Moogan’s vision has been declining ever since he was young, and now at nine years old, he can just barely make out shapes and shadows. But that hardly slows him down. He’s happier than ever, always up for making new friends and showing off his favorite toys. In fact, as he’s grown and adapted to his condition, the world has opened even more for this sweet senior.

Photo by Molly Wald

Young dog starts to go blind

Moogan was brought to the Sanctuary from a nearby shelter when he became too much to handle. He was young and energetic and simply needed more space than was available for him to run and play. At the Sanctuary, he had a big yard to explore, plenty of toys to wear himself out with, and lots of long walks through the winding trails of Angel Canyon. He was a happy pup and made friends left and right.

[Blind puppy learns how to navigate his world]

It came as a surprise, then, when a vet exam revealed that, while he’d been able to see fine at first, his vision was slowly degrading. There wasn’t a clear cause for it — no injury or illness — and, subsequently, no real treatment that could help him. The official diagnosis was “sudden acquired retinal degeneration.” And as Madi Habel, Moogan’s friend and Dogtown supervisor says, “It was just that, suddenly, his eyes stopped working.”

Veterinarians put him on eye medication to slow down the rate at which he was going blind, and for a while his human social circle was limited to staff members. His playful personality was still strong, but he became nervous when people he didn’t know well enough tried to pet him. So, he had a little break while he adjusted to the new way the world around him looked. And oh, how he adjusted.

Photo by Molly Wald

Lover of toys, water dog and … gardener?

Moogan has many favorite things. He could probably have his own verse in that well-known song from The Sound of Music. But above all else he adores his toys, and not being able to see them wasn’t about to stop that. You can tell when you see his yard: It’s full of well-loved plushies and rope toys, some half-buried in the sand for safe keeping. And Moogan can navigate it perfectly, always knowing right where each one is.

He might have trouble finding a treat in front of his nose, but when it comes to toys, despite a yard covered in them, caregivers say he can easily retrieve the one they just threw. When he’s working on a new toy and wanders off to check something else out, as soon as he’s done, he’ll beeline it right back to the dropped toy and continue chewing on it.

He also excels at playing with the flirt pole. If you’re familiar with wand toys for cats, it’s like that, but bigger — a toy at the end of a rope attached to a long pole. “He’s so funny about it,” Madi says with a laugh. “It’s very impressive how he can track it, find it and grab it. And then he’ll never let it go.”

[Out of more than 100 foster pets, volunteer adopts the blind senior dachshund]

Water is another big love of Moogan’s. After he partially tore his ACL, he was signed up for hydrotherapy to help him recover. And even after he was all better, he never stopped going. “His prescription for hydrotherapy,” explains Madi, “is to maintain muscle, plus enrichment. He just loves it. When we got a new tank and they stopped hydrotherapy for a bit (to install it), he was so sad.”

Photo by Molly Wald

In the summer months when the pool at the dog park is full or he goes on an outing to the nearby creek, Moogan won’t hesitate to throw himself into the deep end and go for a dip. He actually seems to prefer the deeper water. His caregivers have tried giving him a kiddie pool in his yard, but that just doesn’t do it for this water dog. He likes playing with the hose, though, when his neighbors’ pools are being filled.

Though he can’t quite see what his yard looks like, Moogan has a lot of opinions on the landscaping and a passion for gardening — in his own way, at least. “There used to be a lot more bushes,” Madi says. “He likes to chew on trees. He likes to pull out any bush that is weak enough to be pulled out. When we weed, he’ll roll in the pile of weeds that we’ve pulled and then he’ll move them around the run.”

Over time while simply doing what he loves most, Moogan has become more and more comfortable getting around with limited vision. He was able to start meeting people again, and though it still takes him a little while to warm up to petting, he’s more than happy to have a new friend come in and toss some toys around for him.

Photo by Molly Wald

Heading confidently into his golden years

Madi says that part of Moogan’s panic in that first home was likely because it was a new situation for him, on top of the fact that he could not see very well. After all, waking up in an unfamiliar place can be disorienting even when you can see clearly. But these days, new stuff is no problem for Moogan.

[Senior dog with a heart of gold now has a new home]

“He’s started to go on sleepovers with volunteers who are here long enough to meet him and get comfortable,” says Madi. “He does really, really great. The new situations are not as scary to him anymore.” She says Moogan is more than ready for a new home and that if he were a fan of cats, she would have already made him part of hers.

While there will come a day when Moogan is completely blind, his friends are confident that nothing will stop this spectacular senior from always finding his favorite things — including a few favorite people to call family.

Photo by Molly Wald

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