A blind dog living without eyes has melted hearts online this week after a video sharing his story went viral on TikTok.
Four-year-old Sterling is a Silver English Labrador and lives in Monroe, Louisiana with owner Haley Byars. When he was just six months old, he was diagnosed as blind.
Our canine friends can suffer vision loss for a variety of reasons including as a natural part of aging, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetes. But unlike humans, dogs do not rely on vision as their primary sense and their noses and ears allow them to adapt well to changes in eyesight.
The American Kennel Club says that: “Even with reduced or complete lack of vision, dogs can fare surprisingly well, as long as they are in a familiar environment.”
While adaptations need to be made to support a blind pup, it does not mean a dog cannot have a full and happy life without eyesight. Viral favorite Sterling is an excellent example of just how well a dog can thrive after sight loss.
On Monday, Sterling’s owner Haley Byars shared a video on TikTok explaining his vision loss journey, captioned: “Seeing his sweet smile everyday let’s me know, I made the right decision.” It has since been viewed more than 640,000 times.
In the video, the text overlay recalls comments the dog’s owner has heard about her beloved pup since his health issues, including: “Removing his eyes?! Just put him down,” and “Why are you letting him live blind? That’s cruel.”
Byars told Newsweek: “When Sterling was 6 months old he became blind and he adapted so well. At nine months, our vet made an appointment with our dog ophthalmologist. We made the four-hour drive with faith and positivity that Sterling’s vision could be restored.”
But when the ophthalmologist examined Sterling in person, he informed the family that nothing could be done to restore his eyesight—explaining that he had detached retinas and cataracts.
Heartbroken, the family returned home with their puppy. On the long drive home, Byars vowed to ensure Sterling was always as happy and strong as possible.
In October 2021, he started to struggle with pain in his eyes. Suffering from pink eye and swelling in his eyes that would get so bad he was sometimes unable to open his eyes, they returned to the vet for advice.
After examining Sterling, the vet quickly explained that if it were her pup, she would have his eyes removed completely.
“This was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make,” said Byars. But eventually, they did make the decision to schedule the surgery. “We didn’t want him in pain. We wanted him to have the best life possible. The pressure on his eyes was causing him so much pain and discomfort he wouldn’t even let me pet his head.”
Inspired by her own experience, Byars decided to begin sharing Sterling’s story on social media: “I was so scared,” she said. “I thought it would be full of toxic people and haters. But the dog community on TikTok is so beautiful it’s actually hard to describe.”
Sharing videos explaining Sterling’s condition, following him on daily adventures, and answering questions from viewers, Byars explained: “Before I knew removal was an option for Sterling I had no idea dogs could live without eyes. So with inspiration from my vet and Sterling, I decided I needed to raise awareness. I am so grateful for the positive response.”
Sterling’s TikTok currently has more than 250,000 followers and Byars hopes that her content will continue to inspire and educate.
“Sterling’s journey has not been easy,” she said. “Sometimes I miss his beautiful eyes, but I know he’s happier and healthier without them.
“I always said if we can inspire people to help save one dog it would’ve all been worth it—and we have done that, and we will continue to do that.”
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