Jackson and Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive retinal atrophy (“PRA”) is genetic disease, found almost exclusively in dogs, that blinds them at age two or so. WC’s border collie, Jackson, was diagnosed with PRA in 2003, not long after we adopted him. He’s been completely blind since late 2003. PRA has no cure. About all you can do is make certain that a dog that carries the recessive gene doesn’t breed.
He doesn’t know he’s blind. He astonishes visitors with his ability to navigate the house, the yard and even the areas where we walk. His map of the neighborhood is simply amazing. Jackson is a tribute to the malleability of a dog’s brain.
Even before going blind, his favorite activity was chasing his cloth frisbee. And it still is.
Jackson thinks nothing of charging full speed after a thrown frisbee. Using a combination of hearing and scent, he can track the frisbee down and bring it back for another toss. And again, and again, with all of a Border Collie’s classic intensity.
Sometimes he gets so excited that he loses his “mental map” of the area and crashes full speed into, say, a retaining wall. It’s given him a West Virginia smile, WC is afraid – there are some missing front teeth. Jackson regards those kind of events as minor distractions in the serious business of having fun.
WC counts himself lucky to have Jackson as his buddy. He reminds WC every day that a disability isn’t disabling.