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Look Beyond My Disability: Meet Diesel

Diesel is one hell of a superdog. He’s been on TV, pet and animal expos, a mascot for a vet clinic, and he even appeared on his very own dog food label at one stage.

When Diesel was 6 years old, he was diagnosed with an illness known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is a recessively inherited disease that destroys the retina over time and currently there is no cure for it. By then Diesel had lost about 80% of his vision, with the total loss occurring in the following years. Reflecting back, Diesel showed signs of PRA early in life, when he would suddenly react at random objects (things like trees or objects that were not moving) at night time or in dim light. This then progressed to him reacting in the same manner in full daylight, which was when Michelle (Diesel’s mum) went to see Dr. Anu O’Reilly from Melbourne Eye Vet to get an assessment.

When Michelle got Diesel’s diagnosis, she had to prepare him and herself for a lifelong illness, such as creating a safer environment for Diesel, taking preventative measures for the illness and adjusting his lifestyle activities.

‘But in all honesty,’ Michelle said, ‘The hardest part of the preparation is dealing with the emotional grief that comes with the diagnosis and learning a new way to communicate and build a deeper level of trust with Diesel, so I can support him as best as possible.’

Michelle’s tips on ‘How to Blind Dog Proofing’ the house

  • Learning never to leave things lying around such as shoes or toys, and to create an open living environment with the furniture.
  • Using scents to help create a scent map of the home and furniture by rubbing essence or something similar onto all the corners of the furniture and doorways.
  • Keep their food and water bowl in the same place.
  • Looking at different guidance apparatus’ that help in giving your blind dog feedback of the unfamiliar environment.

Michelle said, ‘There are many adaptions that need to take place but the biggest one by far is MYSELF and the energy that I project onto Diesel. I want him to feel self assured, confident and not losing enthusiasm for life.’

Blindness doesn’t stop Diesel and Michelle to explore the world together. In fact Diesel has been Michelle’s right hand man and continued to perform tricks and help other dogs with issues such as reactivity or timidity.

They say the eyes are the window to the soul… ‘The way Diesel looks deep into my soul with his beautiful eyes tells me he doesn’t need to have vision to feel the connection and every bit of incredible beauty this life has to offer.’

‘Being given the honour of owning a blind dog is a gift. The lessons he has taught me, I believe is far beyond anything that a fully sighted dog could ever have shown me,’ Michelle concluded.

Michelle & Diesel

Dogs with special needs will always hold a special place in Michelle’s heart. She’s offering private lessons to help owners with special needs dogs so they can support their dogs the best way possible. Contact Michelle Cogley at Animal Escapades.

Diesel continues to inspire and shape Michelle’s career as a Canine Behaviour Specialist. Say hello to Michelle and Diesel at The Dog Space.


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