A dog born without eyes is finding his way in life after teaching himself to ‘see’ like a BAT – using echolocation.
Rowan, a German Spitz, barks and then listens to the echoes to help him tell where he is in relation to his surroundings.
Owner Sam Orchard, 41, was shocked when a congenital defect caused Rowan to be born without eyes.
But the 18-month-old is now almost indistinguishable from a sighted dog after learning to navigate using his barks.
Sam, who breeds dogs and runs a boarding kennel at her home in Potton, near Biggleswade, Beds., was stunned when she realised that Rowan was using echolocation.
She said: ”When he first started going out there were no leaves on the trees but when the leaves grew there was the rustling and we noticed the change in his behaviour.
”He barks to judge the lay of the land and then when I call his name he knows exactly where I am and comes running.
”People who meet Rowan can’t tell that he’s blind at first – they usually just ask why he’s got his eyes shut.
”He’s just amazing. He’s so independent and he has a really good life. He’s just like one of the other dogs.”
Sam, who runs the Spilmah Home Boarding kennel, breeds rare German Spitz dogs and lives with her two children, 11 and 18, and husband Phil, 48.
Rowan was born in a litter of two in April last year and Sam became concerned when he had not opened his eyes after ten days.
She took him to a vet who told her that the meeting of Rowan’s father’s bloodline with his mother’s had created a polygene which meant he was born with no eyes.
Sam added: ”It was a real surprise when he told me that not only would they not be opening, they didn’t exist – he was born without eyes.
”People told me that I should think about putting him to sleep but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
”I was shocked but I decided that I would just do the best I could for him and now he is just like the others. He an incredible chap.”
Rowan has even completed a Good Citizen Bronze award for obedience, although he cannot compete in dog shows because of his appearance.
He lives with his two grandmothers, his grandfather, his aunty and his mum, four-year-old Badger plus two Dalmations and two Borzi.