retinitis pigmentosa



Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

Wednesday October 31st 2018


Walks have been difficult for poor Isis this week. Despite the weather forecast promising dull, rainy days, the sun has dodged in and out most of the time; consequently, it has been challenging, to say the least, persuading Isis to leave the car park and then to round the corner to begin our walk with B., G., Rufus and Nancy.

Each morning, when we have had our group walk, I give the recalcitrant Hairy One at least  thirty minutes off lead, usually in the Colour Garden.

On Tuesday, she is enjoying a romp on the mound next door to the Garden, when a lady with her husband calls to ask what my dog is looking for.

I explain about Hairy One’s difficulties and how she likes falling leaves, rain, snow and sleet.

The lady, F., and her husband T, are very interested. T., who has a white stick,  says that he can understand Isis enjoying leaves and the elements touching her.  He also expresses heart felt sympathy with her terror of light changes.

T. has retinitis pigmentosa. He explains what a horrible experience a sudden burst of light is to him, that it is not only very uncomfortable but produces a complete whiteout and leaves him totally disorientated. Normally, he is aware of solid things like trees, since they present as dark shadows, giving him a sense of where he is. Light and dark obliterate these ‘landmarks’.

I have just checked out some R.P. websites. One (N.H.S.) explains that two early signs in children are slowness in adjusting to change of light (most people’s eyes adjust in about seven minutes, R.P. sufferers take considerably longer) and difficulty in moving around in darkness.

He tells me that he is very lucky to have retained useful vision and been able to work until in his fifties.


‘The symptoms of RP typically appear in childhood. Children often have difficulty getting around in the dark. It can also take abnormally long periods of time to adjust to changes in lighting. As their visual field becomes restricted, patients often trip over things and appear clumsy. People with RP often find bright lights uncomfortable, a condition known as photophobia. Because there are many gene mutations that cause the disorder, its progression can differ greatly from person to person. Some people retain central vision and a restricted visual field into their 50s, while others experience significant vision loss in early adulthood. Eventually, most individuals with RP will lose most of their sight.’

National Eye Institute


T. told me that a dog’s eyes are very similar to ours and that dogs can suffer from P.R.

Apparently, this genetic disorder is rare and there are a number of different forms.

I am not, of course, qualified to diagnose Isis as an R.P. sufferer, but my conversation with T. and F. was very enlightening.

Over time, I have observed her photophobia and her terror of the dark except when she is in her own garden, and observed that she cowers and looks up when a strong wind moves a tree under which she is walking.

But there were still reactions which didn’t fit my theories; for example, why, after a period of staying in the same space, she plays happily in sunlight (as long as there are no shadows) and is delighted to walk on dull days, but freaks out when walking in and out of light and shade.

It also seemed very strange to me that she could ‘see’ these changes when she is blind. Obviously, there must still be some photosensitive cells in her retina.






Dear little Isis.


Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact or


This entry was posted in Kings Heath Park, poor Isis, scary shadows, strange behaviour, we don't like bright sun, we don't like the dark and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to retinitis pigmentosa

  1. Ian Simkin says:

    ‘Blind’ covers a multitude of conditions, it’s not always an all or nothing condition – so the fact that bright patches of sunlight in motion disturbs Isis suggests that it is more than likely she retains some light sensitivity……


    • You’re absolutely right, of course Ian. I’d forgotten that you have worked with people who have visual impairment. I’m sure that, like D., Isis can make out shadows, and have often been puzzled about this and also about how disturbed she is by bright light.


  2. Amber Lipari says:

    How fascinating! Isn’t the eye just an amazing thing?? Gosh, I struggle with just losing my close vision and having to wear increasingly powerful reading glasses, so Isis and T are very brave 🙂 F&T sound like nice new acquaintances 🙂


    • I agree, it IS fascinating and it’s really brought home to me how difficult life can be for poor Isis. I always listen to ‘In Touch’ (a BBC Radio Four programme which gives a voice to people with visual impairment) and I hope I am able to empathise with people with visual impairment, but I’ve thought much more about what Isis is likely to be experiencing since I spoke to D. and F.


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