Monday, January 22, 2018

Jackson’s Eyes and Mine

In our family, we love dogs. At Mom’s house the two grandbabies are guarded by Jackson, her newest Sheltie, the fourth in a line of Shetland Sheepdogs, who finds it his duty to love and protect.

Collies and their kin, whether Rough Collies, Border Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, or Shetland Sheepdogs (nicknamed Shelties) are known for genetic eye problems.  Funny, so is our family.  The disease that struck my sight at 28 (Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy—LHON) destroys the optic nerves and affects the central vision.  Collie Eye Anomaly—CEA can cause detached retinas, optic nerve abnormalities, and loss of retinal cells.  The parallels between my eye disease and the genetic disease affecting Mom’s favorite dog breed is uncanny.

Years ago, Betty White held two Shetland Sheepdogs in a TV spot appealing for public donations for an animal charity and my mom fell in love with the breed.  That’s when Maggie, our first family dog, came into our lives.  She was a tri-colored beauty who lived from my 10th birthday until I was 20.

Following Maggie came Annie, sable colored like Lassie, and another tri-colored Sheltie, mostly black and smaller than the others:  Gus.  Annie and Gus were not from the same litter but proved inseparable pals for the ten years they kept Mom company.  All were such sweet, devoted, loving dogs that eventually succumbed to cancer of one sort or another—Gus being the last to go—until Jackson.

By the time Gus left Mom, most of my sight had left me.  Mom said she just knew the Sheltie with the genetically mutated eyes, one brown and one bright blue, was the next pup for her! And so Jackson with the different eyes, like mine are different, came to love and be loved by all of us. Mom said her daughter’s eyes and her doggie’s eyes both see right into her heart.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching us to love dogs and one another, regardless.

#LHON #LebersHereditaryOpticNeuropathy #ShetlandSheepdog #Sheltie #Collieeyeanomaly

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fighting for Josh

I wonder whatever became of Josh. He was brutally picked on by the other kids in school and it ripped my heart out. Not sure what made him so different, but he was, and I took it upon myself to be his defender.  Of course, I could see perfectly back then.  It was middle school and, to date, there was no manifestation of some weird, rare genetic disease to steal away my vision—at least not yet. That would certainly have made me different and an easy target, too.  I was picked on for other reasons and although I couldn’t adequately defend myself, I found that my role as an advocate for Josh made me inwardly feel powerful and strong and needed. He appreciated me and loved me as his dear friend when no one else would embrace him in friendship.

Looking back on that experience with Josh, I see the beginnings of my role as a proponent for those with disabilities.  I’ve found myself crusading for my own rights as someone with low vision as well as for persons with other disabilities.  As one of my law professors advised me:  “Be your own greatest advocate.”

Wherever you are, Josh, I’m still out here fighting for you—but for myself, now, too.

#advocacy  #disabilities  #lowvision  #lebershereditaryopticneuropathy #LHON #bullying

Sunday, January 7, 2018

ntroducing the West Highland White Terrier

A Nashville, Tennessee-based attorney focused on disability rights, Bianca Catherine Knight has represented clients in cases involving employment discrimination. In her free time, Bianca Catherine Knight enjoys reading, working out, and caring for her two dogs, a poodle-golden retriever mix and a West Highland white terrier

Commonly referred to as a Westie, the West Highland white terrier is a small Scottish breed that is curious, smart, and loyal. Like other terriers, the Westie was originally bred for hunting and ratting. Today, owners often channel the dog’s energy, toughness, and strong work ethic toward agility and obedience competitions. Westies also make excellent therapy dogs. 

As a pet, the Westie is very affectionate and perfect for families with children of all ages. The dog also is good with other canines and will adapt to living with cats. Although the breed can thrive in both rural and urban environments, Westies need to be kept indoors. Westies are particularly well-suited for apartment living as long as they get exercise and are trained at an early age not to bark at everything that catches their attention.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year’s Day Reflection of the Heart

New Year’s Day is one for pondering and I’m doing just that. Helen Keller said: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”  I’m not totally blind, I’m legally blind from Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.  In the beginning of my sight loss, I separated myself from things and people—especially those I love and who love me.  At that time, I had no vision for my future or even for the day in which I existed.  It took a while to work past all that. 2018 marks a decade since I lost my sight—10 years or 120 months or 520 weeks or 3,650 days that, in the beginning, I never thought I’d ever be able to face without perfect sight, driving my own car.

I really get what Helen Keller was saying.  I truly do.  2018 is going to be another GREAT year.  I can just see it!

#helenkeller  #blind  #lowvision  #LHON  #lebershereditaryopticneuropathy