WATERLOO — Staff at Cedar Bend Humane Society knew something was wrong when they would enter Leah’s kennel and she no longer got up to greet them.

The once vivacious, playful pup began retreating to a corner of her kennel, appearing fearful of her surroundings.

“She was an outgoing, happy-go-lucky dog who wanted pets and loves,” said Amber Lang, CBHS medical technician supervisor. “We knew something was wrong.”

Leah, a 4-year-old mixed breed, began running into walls and items in her path. She threw her head around, attempting to make sense of her surroundings. A veterinary visit revealed the cause of Leah’s symptoms — the dog had gone blind in just a few days’ time.

Leah had been at the shelter for a total of six months. She initially arrived as a stray and after a month was adopted. The family later returned Leah to the shelter. Now a special-needs dog, finding a forever home is a bigger challenge.

“She needs someone who’s not going to give up on her,” Lang said. “She’ll do well in a family setting, but she’ll need someone who spends time with her, who’s patient when she steps in her water bowl or knocks things over because she can’t see them.”

Leah was diagnosed with sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome, known in veterinary circles as SARDS. It’s characterized by the acute onset of blindness due to loss of function in part of the retina, according to the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists. It’s most commonly diagnosed in female mixed breeds.

There is no treatment or cure. Leah’s blindness is permanent. And she needs a permanent family to help her adjust. A shelter environment is stressful for many dogs. A blind dog suffers added stress there, Lang noted.

“Leah’s having a hard time,” she said. “She gets overwhelmed.”

CBHS staff built Leah a cart on wheels so she can ride along on walks with less anxiety about her surroundings. Staff outfitted the cart with a license plate — “Cruzin’ 66.” Staff have been spending extra time with Leah to help her adjust to her new limits and said she’s learning to use her other senses more.

“She’s definitely using her nose a lot more,” said Sabryna Leise, CBHS kennel supervisor.

Leah has a gem of a personality, shelter staff say. She’s low-key and snuggly.

“She’s literally the perfect dog for someone who’s going to give her a chance,” Lang said.

Lang recommends anyone interested in adopting Leah do a bit of homework on the needs of a blind dog.

“This is just something she has to learn to live with, and she needs a family to help her learn.”

For more information on Leah or other animals at CBHS, call 232-6887 or go to www.cedarbendhumane.org.

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