Dutchess is a golden retriever with a smile that is guaranteed to warm your heart – an important gift in her job. As a therapy dog for the Good Dog Foundation, she is required to remain calm and caring in challenging situations. And when a hereditary disease recently claimed her eyesight, her generosity and unmistakable smile remained intact.
Mark Condon brought Dutchess home as a puppy nine years ago and they have been a loving team ever since. Between his positions as professor of biology at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY, you volunteer at the Anderson Center for Autism in the nearby State Castle.
Like any wild pooch, Dutchess loves to chase tennis balls. She never missed one that was thrown at her, recalls Condon. Then in 2010 something began to change – she began to miss her. She also started bumping into objects and seemed disoriented at times. Visits to the vet and ophthalmologist revealed that she had pigment uveitis, a genetic condition that generally leads to glaucoma and blindness.
Eye medication slowed the progression, but Condon knew that after six months of trying everything, her eyesight was all but gone. Worse, the pressure on her eyes was causing her pain. After receiving the somber news that both eyes had to be surgically removed, he and Dutchess began preparing for the inevitable. “I had some time to orientate her and teach her new commands like ‘curb up, curb down’ and ‘watch out’ to alert her to things she could collide with without a leash.”