ó The eyes of Lola and Yahtzee are more precious than
the eyes of most dogs; these Labrador retrievers are the
eyes and lifelines of their blind partners.
a 2-year-old yellow female, and Yahtzee, a 10-year-old
black male, are among the 100-150 "working"
dogs getting free screening eye exams this month at
Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center.
Lola came to the Ohio Township facility with partner
Mike Gravitt. His wife, Johna Gravitt, came with Yahtzee.
Both dogs were trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind in
Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
couple and their dogs live in a Dormont apartment
home when their harnesses come off they are just
dogs," said Gravitt. The dogs get along well and
enjoy playing with each other when they are off-duty, he
drops were applied to the eyes of Lola and Yahtzee. Then
both sat nicely in the waiting room for 20 minutes. The
actual exams took just a few minutes.
regular veterinarian thought he saw cholesterol deposits
in his eyes, Johna Gravitt told Rachel Keller, a
veterinary eye specialist known as an ophthalmologist.
see cloudiness related to his age. I do not see
cataracts. For being almost 11 years old, Yahtzee looks
terrific," Keller said.
Lola passed with flying colors.
year 7,400 animals that work and serve got free exams
from 290 veterinary eye specialists in the United
States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The program is called
the annual ACVO/Stokes RX National Service Animal Eye
is the 10th anniversary of the exams, sponsored by the
American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and
Stokes Pharmacy, a national compounding pharmacy.
eye exams have been given to 52,000 animals since the
program began in 2008. The vast majority are dogs, but
some horses, pigs and other animals have benefited, too.
are animals that lead the blind, assist people with
medical or psychological issues, work with the military
or police, or work on search and rescue. Certified
therapy dogs are also covered.
see more and more dogs each year," Dr. Keller said.
The four eye specialists PVSEC have not diagnosed any
life-threatening or work-ending eye ailments.
I give them treats even though they are in their working
harness?" Dr. Keller asked. Permission was granted,
much to the delight of the dogs.
vests or harnesses of many working dogs say "do not
pet." Lolaís says, "Do not feed or flirt
was Dr. Kellerís first visit with Lola and her last
seems to be losing his focus and is sometimes more
interested in sniffing than in guiding," Johna
Gravitt said. "Itís time for him to retire,
probably at the end of the summer."
Keller asked Gravitt about his former partner, Rick, a
13-year-old Labrador retriever she had seen every year
since 2008. Rick retired last fall, and one day later
Gravitt was teamed with Lola.
had some cysts around his eyes that the doctors watched
over the years," Gravitt said. "The cysts didnít
cause any problems. But he had to retire because of
really hard when they retire," Gravitt said.
"But itís good to know they will live the rest of
their lives as pets. They must go to a home where people
are with them all day because thatís what they are
was adopted by a veterinary technician at West Liberty
Animal Hospital, where the couple regularly take their
is very happy with his new guy," Gravitt said, and
he goes to work with him every day.
will move in with the family of an employee at Bender
Consulting Services Inc., where both Gravitts work.
Guiding Eyes organization provides veterinary care for
their working dogs, Gravitt said, including Rickís
successful cancer treatments when he was 8 years old.
toying with the idea of starting a nonprofit to raise
money for the veterinary care of retired service
dogs," Gravitt said. "Iíd like to give back
to them for what they give to us."
www.guidingeyes.org website says the organization spends
$50,000 to raise and train each dog, but the dogs are
free to recipients such as the Gravitts. Donations fund
fact: People who donate $3,000 can name a Guiding Eyes
puppy. Gravitt said his current dog was named by
National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman, who
gave her the same name as his own pet, Lola.