Free eye exams for search and rescue dogs in Kent County

Posted at 5:00 PM, May 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-24 07:40:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Search and rescue dogs play and important role in helping law enforcement and first responders.

In Kent County alone, they're deployed on about 20 cases a year. As you'd imagine, the dogs' keen eyesight and sense smell are critical.

The Kent County Sheriff's Department is holding free eye exams on Tuesday for registered service animals, like Lego. He is a five-year old Portuguese water dog and a mission ready search and rescue animal.

On the job Lego is trained to scan large areas and sometimes determine where police should look. But last year something came between him and his job.

“He almost didn’t go. I was actually out-of-state. I was in Tennessee and one of our teammates, Kim Veldere was like no, no, no this is important I’ll take him for you," says Lego's owner Jilian Rakaw.

Rakaw's teammate took Lego to get the free eye exam at the Kent County Sheriff's office. Shortly after, Rakaw got the news, “And I got a phone call, and that phone call was we found a tumor.”

Veterinarian Cassandra Bliss found a fast growing tumor near Lego's eye. "It grew and it grew very quickly, within a month it had grown really large," explains Rakaw.

The tumor posed many issues for Lego and the best option was to have it removed.

"This was a four-year old, perfectly healthy dog who has genetic testing multiple generations back that said he should have no problem with his eyes and look what happened," says Rakaw, "So had that tumor been malignant we would be having a different conversation right now. It is absolutely imperative that we check their eyes."

Post surgery, Lego had issues with depth perception and struggled with everyday activities, like getting into the car and chasing his favorite toy. Now he's adapted and is ready to search again.