The day is like any other.
Luke sleeps in until his owner, Danae Britton, gets up and gets dressed. That’s when he, too, hops out of bed, albeit mopey and tired. They go on walks and visit Danae’s parents, Don and Susie Britton, regularly – just another day in the life. For all intents and purposes, Luke is a typical canine, full of energy and love for his family. He runs, he jumps, he barks, he plays tug of war.
He just can’t see.
Luke lost his left eye to glaucoma three years ago followed by the removal of his right in December 2016. With both eyes sewn shut, the black lab-basset hound mix is completely blind.
Yet he is able to navigate his way through his surroundings without assistance, memorizing the layout of Danae’s house and her parents’ home within days of losing his sight. He even leads during his daily walks.
“He knows how many steps to take before he’ll turn,” Danae said. “He knows how to jump on my bed. I think he thinks he can see still. I don’t think he knows he’s blind.”
Luke’s recovery wasn’t without hardship, however.
After the second surgery, Luke fell into a depression, refusing to eat or drink for nearly a week. Not wanting to watch a beloved family member wither away, Don and Susie suggested putting Luke to sleep.
“That was hard for me and I’ve got a real soft heart for animals,” Don said. “I was having a hard time watching him day after day just get weaker and weaker and no will to live.”
But Danae refused to give up on Luke, whom she considers her son.
Shortly after Danae’s refusal to put him to sleep, Luke returned to his normal self and life resumed as it was – with a few minor changes.
“When he had his eyes, he was obsessed with tennis balls,” Danae said. “Now that he can’t see, he still loves tennis balls but you have to throw it 1 foot in front of him rather than 50 feet.”
Luke was 6 weeks old when Danae first laid eyes on him, a stray in Oildale who wound up in the Bakersfield SPCA. Workers told her no one showed any interest in him, but Danae knew he was the one and took the 4-pound “bassador” home. Now 8 years old and 45 pounds, Luke still maintains a belief that his rightful place is nestled in Danae’s lap.
“He’s very needy,” she said. “He’s always sitting in my lap.”
But that’s where Luke feels most secure.
Luke was always petrified of sounds, but that fear was amplified when he lost his vision, so he constantly seeks his safe spot.
“Every little sound freaks him out,” Danae said. “But he just comes, sits in my lap. I’m here to protect him. I don’t sleep a lot of nights because he’s so scared of the sounds going on. But I know it’s not his fault.”
That level of patience and commitment speaks volumes about the relationship between owner and dog – between mother and son.
“There’s a lot of people that would have put him to sleep just because of the cost of the first eye,” Don said.
Prior to the first surgery, the Brittons applied eye drops to Luke’s eye twice a day for two years to help keep the pressure low, along with emergency drops in case of a glaucoma attack. The cost of the drops alone was high and they knew it was just a matter of time before the eye had to be removed. The family also knew there was a chance the other eye would be affected, especially because basset hounds are highly susceptible to glaucoma.
But that had no impact on Luke’s attitude as he is as positive, upbeat and caring as ever. If anything, it has strengthened the bond among family members, a symbiotic relationship built on love, trust and support.
“It’s a good love story,” Susie said. “Danae just wouldn’t give up on him. She just always believed in him that he would do it and he did. I think he did it for her.”