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Pepe's Story

I thought I would tell Pepe’s story in full for the first time, it would help me take stock too.

We live in the UK, about 8 years ago, we had a Jack Russell called Bruce, my first dog.

Bruce a few weeks before he died

A better dog than anyone could wish for.

Bruce was 8 at the time, and my wife was a district nurse, visiting patients in their homes. She mentioned finding a puppy in the street. The details didn’t stick in my mind at the time, what had this to do with us. A few weeks later, and there mysteriously appeared this little pup, my wife reminded me of the pup she found abandoned, but I do think it a great coincidence that it was another Jack Russell. She called him Pepe (pronounced Pep pee), the name was out of my hands, and pee he did.

Bruce and Pepe

As Pepe grew, he was very nasty to Bruce, who would not bite back. Pepe and I were not the best of friends. Bruce passed away at the age of 13, when Pepe was just 4, and we consoled each other, for no matter how badly he treated Bruce, he missed him as much as I did. 4 months later, and another Jack Russell puppy appeared. Everyone wanted me to say we could keep him, I did not name him for 3 days, then took the bull by the horns, killed 2 birds with one stone, and called him Bruce, firstly so he wouldn’t end up with a silly name like Pepe, secondly shaming them for replacing Bruce.

The totally new Bruce

Before Bruce came to the age where he would challenge Pepe over who is the better dog, something happened to Pepe in May 1998.

I noticed (it always happens on a Friday night) that Pepe was winking, I looked and could see that pupil was larger. Monday we got an appointment with a vet. It was by sheer luck that I got one of the top eye vets in the country, I just thought all vets would have the skills. I think he knew what was wrong with Pepe before he even examined him. The winking had stopped that Friday night, but by the symptoms I described, and the fact that Pepe is a Jack Russell - his lens had come loose. The lens had come in front of the iris, and gone back on its own, but the lens wobble was plain to see. A look in the other eye also confirmed that that lens was near to coming loose.

The vet was good at explaining what was wrong, and the only option was to remove the lens. I was thinking in human terms, and ask if an artificial lens was available, it was, but had never been done in this country before.

I pressured the vet and 2 weeks later when the winking came back, Pepe had the operation, but the lens was too big and was not fitted. Pepe had a major knock on the eye a week later, this must have detached his retina, and I blame myself for that.

He is blind in 1 eye here

2 months later, Pepe went in to have the second eye done, but it was a disaster. The vet had explained there is high risk of a blood vessel being caught (this is different from a cataract lens replacement, it is bigger and has to be stitched in place), and sure enough this is what happened. The blood inside the eye would rob that of vision too.

Pepe had no vision at all, the vet had said Pepe would manage, but I couldn’t believe it.

Now blind in both eyes

The first few days, Pepe slowly shuffled about, but then he refused to move. He had worn an Elizabethan Collar before, and I thought it would give him some warning of a collision, but we had to carry him to where he needed to be. I found he was a bit more confident on the leash, but he wouldn't try steps.

I made enquires if there was some sort of guard, nothing was available, so I bought a leather harness and some strips of aluminium, I had in mind building a complete cage around his head, but one horizontal band seemed enough. As he raised and lowered his head, the hoop seemed to be always level with where he needed the protection. No more head bashing.

The 1st head saver

Now Pepe has all the confidence he needs, partly because of the hoop, and partly because of Bruce. You can’t be a dopey dog all your life, food and balls will be stolen right from under your nose otherwise. He may be half the speed of Bruce, but that doesn’t mean Bruce will always get to a thrown ball first every time.

Pepe and Bruce at play

Pepe now enjoys life as much as he always did, if I could bottle that I would give some to every blind dog around the world.

Some resources

Caroline Levins book "Living with Blind Dogs"

Blind dogs web site Owners of Blind Dogs,

The blind dogs site Meet Our Blind Dogs