Brilliantly Simple, Low-Tech Device to Help Blind Dogs Navigate

By Core77 on August 12, 2015 in Design - Other
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First off, this much-“Liked” video, which has nothing to do with blind dogs, is currently making the social media rounds. In it we see a bulldog who apparently loves cardboard boxes, and is willing to deal with a major inconvenience in order to carry his around:

While that video is funny, seeing it did make me wonder what happens to dogs that truly lose their sight. A recent Reddit post, subsequently covered in animal-lover’s website The Dodo, shows a very clever solution constructed by a man in Texas named Jesse Foy. Foy’s girlfriend’s dog, Buddy, had developed cataracts and could not longer see; discouraged by the loss of sight and unable to navigate without banging into things, the dog simply stopped moving. Thus Foy headed down to the hardware store, then cobbled this together:

It’s made, as Foy explains, from “A few bolts, washers, wing nuts and a roll of plastic hanger strap.”

Foy readily admits that he did not conceive of the device; the credit for that goes to Silvie Bordeaux, who invented the following several years ago:

Bordeaux invented it for the sake of her own dog, Muffin, who had gone blind. “I was devastated, since he kept bumping into walls and falling down the stairs,” Bordeaux writes. “He became very depressed and was afraid to move around. I could not let him out of my sight and carried him around everywhere. I searched the internet extensively for solutions/assistance. That was when I realized that there is a great need for a products to assist blind/visually impaired dogs, so I invented [this device, which I call] ‘Muffin’s Halo Guide For Blind Dogs.'”

Bordeaux took out a patent and now sells the device online. While the halo iconography and particularly the little angel wings are a bit much for my tastes, I can’t deny the device is useful; when dogs go blind, it’s not uncommon for their owners to put them down because they simply can’t find a solution that will allow the dog to navigate freely. “I was stunned to find out how many dogs are abandoned or put down because they go blind,” Bordeaux writes. “Muffin’s Halo can now save the lives of many dogs!”

As for why Foy didn’t simply buy one of Bordeaux’s products, he concluded that it would be too bulky for Buddy, a five-pounder, to carry on his diminutive frame. (Bordeaux does sell her device in a variety of sizes, including a $69.95 XXS; this is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the price had something to do with the DIY decision.) And from a design perspective, Foy’s hack seems better suited for Buddy: The plastic hang-strap has enough give to gently transmit force, whereas the Halo device seems a bit more rigid. Also note the placement of the Halo versus the placement of Foy’s device; the latter has the attachment point much lower, and I wonder if that confers some ergonomic advantage.

In any case, I hope folks continue to experiment with and evolve designs like these, hopefully without violating Bordeaux’s patent, which I understand must be respected. It costs thousands of dollars to train a seeing-eye dog that can assist blind humans, but if we can make a blind dog’s life easier with a few dollars in parts from the local hardware store, that’s a hard fact to ignore.