PVM Ophthalmology Team Screens Service Dogs during Special Eye Exam Event

Guide dog Sugar waits to receive her free eye exam as part of ACVO/StokesRX National Service Animal Eye Exam Day. Sugar needs good vision to perform vital functions for her handler, Christie Keen.
Guide dog Sugar waits to receive her free eye exam as part of ACVO / Stokes Rx National Service Animal Eye Exam Day. Sugar needs good vision to perform vital functions for her handler, Christie Keen.

 

West Lafayette resident Christie Keen is blind, and walks to and from work every day with her golden Labrador Retriever and guide dog, Sugar. Sugar's eyesight is important to Keen's ability to judge risky traffic situations and assist in navigating the community safely, which is why she received a free eye exam as part of a special event conducted for service dogs on May 8 by the Ophthalmology service at Purdue Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).

Each year, the ophthalmologists at the VTH donate their time and expertise as part of the annual National Service Animal Eye Exam Day, organized by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Stokes Rx. Dr. Wendy Townsend, PVM associate professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, conducted the free exam, screening for cataracts, glaucoma, and other ocular problems that could interfere with Sugar's mission, and gave Sugar a clean bill of eye health. "The goal is to ensure excellent ocular health for the service dogs," she said. "I love participating because we are able to celebrate the wonderful bond between the dogs and their handlers. The services these dogs provide are amazing."

Sugar's training was long, costly, and intensive, which is greater incentive to keep her eyes healthy. Her training began in Iowa as part of the Prison Puppies initiative, where prisoners at a minimum-security prison committed to spending 24 hours a day with a dog for 12-15 months, with the intention of raising highly responsive and well-socialized service animals. Sugar was then certified as a service animal through Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Mich. Keen was required to travel to Michigan for a month to undergo handler training, bond with Sugar and learn how to communicate with one another. Today, Keen's range of autonomy is dependent on Sugar's good eyesight as her service dog.

Ophthalmology Technician Pam Kirby dilates Sugar's eyes in preparation for a formal eye exam on the annual ACVO/StokesRX National Service Animal Eye Exam Day.
Ophthalmology Technician Pam Kirby dilates Sugar's eyes in preparation for a formal eye exam on the annual ACVO / Stokes Rx National Service Animal Eye Exam Day.

"It is a wonderful freedom I never had before," Keen says. "I started wanting to be able to walk to and from work, so I didn't have to wait on somebody. It's an amazing freedom to be able to say, 'It's time to leave,' and just pack myself up and leave."

Nearly 8,000 service animals are examined for free every year nationwide as part of the National Service Animal Eye Exam Day. "This event gives us a chance to raise awareness of veterinary ophthalmology so that more owners know about the services we provide for their dogs and any other animals in their households," Dr. Townsend said. "The dogs and their owners are wonderful," she added. "Our whole service spends the whole day with smiles on our faces."

A story on Keen and Sugar was also featured on local television station, WLFI-TV 18. Click here to view the story.

 

Dr. Wendy Townsend discusses Sugar's eye health with her handler, Christie Keen.
Dr. Wendy Townsend discusses Sugar's eye health with her handler, Christie Keen.
Christie Keen and service dog Sugar are videotaped at PVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital as part of local news coverage of the tenth annual National Service Animal Eye Exam Day on WLFI TV-18.
Christie Keen and service dog Sugar are videotaped at PVM's Veterinary Teaching Hospital as part of local news coverage of the tenth annual National Service Animal Eye Exam Day on WLFI TV-18.

 


This story is part of the 2017 Spring PVM Report.

Back to
mosaic view

Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-7607

© 2017 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by PVM Web Communications

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact PVM Web Communications at vetwebteam@purdue.edu.