Adoptable Pet of the Week: Pretty Girl, the blind, deaf and super-sweet senior

Pretty Girl has rather large ears for a dog that cannot hear. — photo by Zak Neumann

Every shelter animal has its challenges, some steeper than others. With very little in the way of hearing and no sight, life at the Iowa City Animal Center can be more confusing and stressful for Pretty Girl than a dog with full use of its senses. That hasn’t stopped the 11-year-old from being her playful, adventurous and cuddly self.

Pretty Girl is most comfortable in familiar places, including the arms of center staffer Jonte Thornton. — photo by Zak Neumann

Pretty Girl has likely had trouble seeing and hearing her whole life. Congenital deafness and/or blindness is common in white dogs — because science — but dogs’ naturally strong sense of smell — some hundreds of thousands times stronger than humans’ — makes up for it. Pretty Girl is never not sniffing, using smell to assess a room’s size, occupants and location. She also uses her nose to literally feel out her surroundings like a seeing-impaired human might use a cane. She may bump her head now and then, but she’s not afraid to crawl through unknown spaces and discover something new.

Pretty Girl plays with her favorite squeaky toy. — photos by Zak Neumann

Though Pretty Girl is a friendly and independent dog, her adopters will need to make a few accomodations. Her new home should not have stairs, or should have them properly blocked off, and the space should be clutter-free. She is not a good fit for a family constantly on the move; she’ll do best settling into one familiar space for the rest of her life. Pro tip: Scent each room of your house differently, and it will make it easier for Pretty Girl to navigate by nose. For example, you can spray citrus air freshener in the kitchen, lavender in the bedroom, fresh linen in the living room, etc.

Adopters should also be financially secure to keep up with the regular vet visits needed to address Pretty Girl’s chronic ear issues, seasonal allergies, flea allergy and general senior care. She will likely get along with other dogs, cats and children as long as they give her space when she’s eating or feeling possessive over a toy — she likes to guard her resources. Center staff recommend enrolling her in positive reinforcement training, and a voucher for classes is included with her adoption. You in fact can teach an old dog new tricks.

Visit the shelter’s website for more information on adoption. To meet Pretty Girl, stop by the Iowa City Animal Center at 3910 Napoleon Ln between 10:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, or 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturdays.


  1. Let’s be honest: how many homes are out there with the skills, finances and management/training protocols to deal with a severe chronic allergy case and resource-guarding issue in a dog with full visual and aural capacities, much less one without AND one who has been doing this for 11+ years? A voucher for a reward-based class is hardly comfort when the time, skills, effort and extreme life-changing protocols necessary to safely and comfortably live with this dog are to be considered–and that’s in an EXPERIENCED home.

    When I am seeing entire write-ups on adoptable animals who have such a list of stipulations that preclude its ability to be a SAFE companion animal living in someone’s home, the red flag goes up and warning bells go off. By no means is this an isolated case or a new thing.

    Please, do right by her. Stop setting her up to fail by warehousing her until “the right home” comes along. She is blind and deaf as a result of a breeding that never should have happened and she has lived in a silent, dark world of uncertainty (what’s out there to take what I claim as mine?) and discomfort (tell me that severe chronic allergies are not painful!) for 11 years. She is not “Sweet.” She is tolerable and patient to a point. Give her relief and let’s see a write-up for an adoptable dog that would be a pleasure to keep in one’s household, safe and not burn up the credit card at the vet.

  2. What a heartless comment to make for a loving animal! I have a blind dog and one that is deaf and let me tell you, they are a joy and have a wonderful life. I pray she finds a loving home and becomes the joy of their life! If you don’t have the right home, it doesn’t mean she is not worth finding a home for or sharing her life with someone. Don’t be so quick to judge, just because you feel it’s a waste of money in your eyes, doesn’t mean she is not worth it. It doesn’t always have to do with the breeding, just like in people, birth defects, accident and life happens. Sad you put a $ amount on what is worth saving! She’ll find that home and finally have everything she deserves!!

  3. Sometimes loving an animal means taking a neutral-enough stance to know when it is SAFE to release it to a member of the public, experienced or not. An objective, outside view should be welcomed, not criticized.

    Take it from someone who works in the veterinary profession with a strong interest and experience in dog behavior: Love is not enough. There has to be a cold hard dose of reality somewhere. We brush off enough dangerous shenanigans in the office that we realize is situational, but we WILL call out a dog that creates significant concerns–it is our duty to owners and PUBLIC HEALTH that we do so. Not all dangers are zoonotic in nature; I often have less of a concern that someone will catch lepto from their dog than I am of a potential bite event given the often-graphic descriptions of how they live and interact with that dog (often punctuated with regular interjections of “but we so dearly love him!”). With the abilities we have and need to not only handle and restrain a variety of dogs appropriately, but also read them and their intentions within a very short period of time as well as make judgement calls about not only their safety but OURS AS WELL, reading such a write-up on this dog tells me that she is NOT SAFE for anyone but an experienced owner, the likes of which anymore are in short supply who aren’t already filled to the brim with their own menagerie of project dogs. The article explicitly states that this dog is a bigger challenge than most others. That alone tells me that she will be a project–and we ALL know that love is not enough for that to successfully work in everyone’s best interest. Stop kidding yourselves.

    As for your comment on putting a dollar amount on what is worth saving, I hope you read that on which you are commenting. The article explicitly states that her future owner will need substantial financial padding to afford the treatment and management of chronic allergies of various sorts. The frustration and resigned attitudes as well as the descriptors of strict environmental and food management I experience on a very regular basis from the owners of such dogs are truly gargantuan, even as treatments become more specific and effective (if not cheap). If a monthly injection of the new biologic is all that is needed, fine, but that still doesn’t negate the skin and ear issues that may still arise sporadically despite medical technology eliminating the ability for her to feel herself itch and irritate. The saving grace is her size: Cytopoint and Apoquel are costly, but for a small dog, it’s much more financially manageable.

    How does she handle the regular administration of ear medication? Will she bite if I touch her painful, infected ears or need sedated for application of the long-acting meds applied at the vet? What about regular cleaning? Do her anal glands need emptied on a more-than-regular basis? Does she pill well, or does one need to all but stand on one’s head and do a back-flip with a braunschweiger-stuffed Bugle chip to get a skin antibiotic down her throat? Or is she so resistant that the only option is the expensive long-acting injectable antibiotic? Is she receiving sublingual or injectable immunotherapy (again, not a cheap option given the testing required for her particular formulation) that a new owner can administer and must continue? Is she so tolerable to having all this done that it’s old hat for her, or does she resent it so much due to pain and lack of tolerance that her issues are as much a difficulty to manage as a result of inability to treat in addition to the fact that she is chronically affected by them?

    Need I go on?

    I will say that in the pictures, she looks great. There is no persistent saliva staining visible, no tear staining and she has obviously been well-cared for. If her allergies really ARE that bad, whatever is being done appears to be working, at least aesthetically.

    With that said, though, allergies in dogs are a life-changer in many ways for the people who have to manage them. It’s no surprise that those people are often more discriminating and thoughtful about the health of the dogs they may acquire in the future. That’s also not considering the fact that the article also admits that senior care is a necessity (as it very well should be with any older dog). Are we talking daily administration of pain meds for arthritis and the regular bloodwork that may be necessary to continue receiving those prescriptions? Are we talking fluid administration for failing kidneys or support for an older liver that may be showing some changes on labwork? Daily or weekly medications for urinary incontinence as if common in older spayed females?

    Going forward, I would hope the rescue is willing to take on the liability they have created by already ADMITTING that this dog has a VERY HIGH BITE POTENTIAL, having shown willingness to use teeth under specific, and often unavoidable, circumstances even with the specific micromanagement efforts underway in an experienced home. There needs to be a clause in this dog’s adoption contract that any bites as a result of her temperament (and all management efforts of the new owner) as volunteered in this write-up will be covered by their insurance despite not legally owning the dog. This write-up tells me that, given the perfect storm of factors and even the consideration that any dog has a potential to bite, the dog HAS bitten in the past, continues to do so and may well do so in the future. That they are even considering placing this dog with those considerations, even TO an experienced home, is just short of unethical.

    I’m sorry that you feel this way about my views regarding offering this dog up for adoption, but given the sheer number of attacks I see in the news on a near-daily basis about family dogs mauling and disfiguring people (CHILDREN!), the rescue would do much better to place the public safety ahead of how they feel for this dog. A dignified and gracious out in the arms of the people she already knows and is familiar with would be so much better and less stressful for HER than hearing the news of this rescue’s name attached to the article about the person she bit as they attempted to extricate her from a situation in which she felt forced to defend herself or whatever possession she decided was hers. The fact that she is small means nothing despite the fact that the damage would be lesser than that of a larger dog–she still has a low bite threshold with years of experience and possible successes behind it. The emotional and social toll it takes on a person to live with that (much less attempt to train out) is nothing short of draining.

  4. One more comment after finally reading her write-up at the ICAC website (found here: )

    “She does not enjoy restraint when it comes to vet care. ”

    That admission right there is the answer I’m looking for.

    It ultimately ends up being the job of the vets and their staff to handle this animal with all the considerations any chemical restraint necessary to get whatever done that is needed, to say nothing of the at-home care that may or may not be necessary to keep her comfortable.

    The afterthought that “She may guard food” is quite the dismissive off-hand afterthought compared to the more damning “[S]he likes to guard her resources” phrasing that Emma has chosen to write.

    As it is, the dog is still available for adoption.

    I’m curious how many of the hundreds of applicants no doubt waiting in the wings have a home with no (or blocked-off) stairs; are not planning to move; completely clutter-free; no interest in changing layout or interior decorating/remodeling; potentially with dog-savvy children over 10 years old (remember, we must also be clutter-free!) who are willing to abide by vague rules about when the dog may or may not guard or bite; socially-stable dogs or independent cats who are willing to adapt to the addition of a senior dog with significant limitations?

  5. Checking in to see if Pretty Girl has found her home yet. Despite my inability and unwillingness to foster or acquire her myself, I find myself rather invested in her situation and welfare if only to observe that ICAC does the right thing by her. She is an interesting ethical dilemma.

    Sadly, I see that the pool of potential adoptive homes has grown even smaller with the added caveat that she needs to be the only animal in the household, leaving out the aforementioned experienced people with the strong possibility of their own menagerie of project dogs (and other possible pets) or those for whom no other experienced home could be found. Yet children are still OK. This I can understand to an extent, but if her prey drive and the updated admonition that “She WILL guard food items and toys ON OCCASION” [all emphasis mine] is any indication, any children would be better off just not interacting with the dog at all. It is difficult to explain to prepubescents (and maybe adolescents) exactly what situations they may or may not touch the dog, especially if she is that unpredictable as to be “occasional” about it.

    Still wondering if a home comes along, but also hoping that ICAC stays realistic as to the liability they play in being a part of the public health problem by offering for adoption a dog with known behavior issues that could lead to someone getting seriously hurt in the right circumstance, even with all preventative measures in place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.


Enjoy a tasting and drinks from the best chefs the area has to offer!

Presented by

Join us Saturday, February 15, 6 p.m.
@ Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

For 18 years...

Little Village has been telling the truth and changing our little corner of the world.

If you can, help us head into the next 18 years even stronger with a one-time or monthly contribution of $18, or any amount you choose.



America’s intimate festival experience featuring cutting-edge music, the Midwest’s premier indie book fair, and readings and community happenings across downtown Iowa City.