Veterinary Ophthalmologist Performs Eye Surgery to Save Dutchess; Doctor and Patient Featured in Newly Released Children’s Book
Dutchess, a perky 10-year-old Golden Retriever therapy dog, needed surgery to remove both eyes because of a debilitating disease. The plucky pooch quickly became adjusted to being blind. Today she continues to enjoy her therapeutic mission of bringing comfort and cheer to adults and children with autism and to the elderly in nursing homes.
In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, Dutchess was at work at the memorial site providing warmth and love to many of the mourners.
Dutchess and Dr. Cory Mosunic, the board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist who performed the eye surgery, are featured as story characters in a newly released children’s picture book, A Day with Dutchess: Life Lessons from a Blind Therapy Dog. Co-authored by Dutchess’ owner and trainer Mark Condon and writer Julie Phillips, the inspiring story shows kids that small actions can make a world of difference; blindness doesn’t prevent living a full life and helping others; and everyone has something positive to contribute even if they’re “different” or have a “disability.”
In 2010, Dr. Mosunic initially diagnosed Dutchess with a serious eye disease called pigmentary uveitis and immediately prescribed therapeutic medications to slow its progression. Unfortunately, the disease eventually stopped responding to the drugs and Dutchess’ vision slowly deteriorated. Her eyes became increasingly painful. To eliminate the dog’s pain, Dr. Mosunic performed surgery to remove both eyes in 2011.
When Newtown Veterinary Specialists first opened its doors at 52 Church Hill Road in Newtown in May of 2012 Dr. Mosunic joined the staff, making her surgical skill and medical expertise available to pet owners in the greater Connecticut and New York areas. Today, Dr. Mosunic and Dutchess maintain their friendship and relationship as doctor and patient.
Dr. Mosunic advises pet owners that dogs can do quite well without vision as long as they’re pain free. She stated, “Dutchess is my hero. I’m amazed by her courage and kindness in continuing her therapy work. I was so pleased that Dutchess made a great recovery from surgery and was happily back on the job just three weeks later.” Mark Condon stated, “Dutchess’ blindness hasn’t dampened her joyful and generous personality.”
As she was gradually losing sight, Mark taught her new commands such as stop, step up and step down on the curb, which helped her adjust to being blind. Because their other senses are so keen, dogs can navigate around without sight, especially in familiar surroundings, relying on tactile clues from their paws and whiskers. Some warning signs of eye problems in dogs include squinting, redness or tearing/discharge.