No Happy Ending for Blind Dane

“Happily Ever After, Together” did not happen for Great Danes Lily and Maddison after the blind Lily turned on Maddison and attacked her.

You’ll remember the touching story of blind Great Dane Lily and her companion Madison; the news reports were dripping with saccharine anthropomorphisms of how Madison is Lily’s “seeing eye dog” and how they were “inseparable for the past five years” and destined to be “friends forever.”  The story goes on to document how Maddison “took the sightless [Lily] under her wing” and how “devoted” and “close” Maddison is to her, “touching her to let the blind pooch know where to go.”  We were told of how they “cuddle at night” an “curl up together.”

Most other dog blogs and media outlets focused on the hopeful prospect that such a love story could continue and that the perfect new home would be found for these two dogs.  No such nonsense here at BorderWars:

There are very few homes equipped to adopt one Great Dane, let alone two. Add in advanced age and congenital blindness, and it’s not surprising that the former owners just couldn’t handle the onus any more and ditched blind Lily and her seeing-eye-dog Maddison at the shelter.

This is the burden created by breeders who mate merle to merle, merle to harlequin, and harlequin to harlequin.  They afflict their puppies and the big hearted owners who adopt them with a lifetime concern.  Dealing with a blind puppy might pull at the heart strings enough, but compassion fatigue and mounting veterinary bills can quickly make the prospect of caring for two middle aged or geriatric dogs more burden than bliss.

After spending 4 months “looking for a new home” (how a blind dog looks for anything is beyond me) the pair made international headlines when their story went viral on the internet last October and within days they had a new home.

A new home at last for the blind Great Dane and her devoted guide dog

  • Couple decided to take in Lily and Maddison after reading about them in the Daily Mail
  • Dogs can now look forward to holidays in France and the Lake District

It’s the happy ending that Lily the blind great dane and her trusty friend turned guide dog Maddison deserve.

When the Daily Mail featured the heart-warming tale of the two great danes, who were looking for a new home, more than 2,000 dog lovers responded by offering to take them.

Now Lily and Maddison are moving from the Dogs Trust centre in Shrewsbury to live with the Williams family 35 miles away in Crewe, Cheshire.

It seemed the couple had good intentions and had at least thought about the pitfalls I had highlighted:

Anne Williams, 52, and her husband Len, 53, a retired fireman, fell in love with the dogs when they read about them in the Mail and their offer was accepted by the trust.

Mrs Williams, a business manager for an insurance company, said: ‘We’ve always had two dogs together, I like them to have company and so taking on two of them wasn’t a daunting prospect.

‘My daughter moved out five months ago, taking her two English setters with her, so the house has felt a little quiet without them.

‘We live in the countryside and I miss having a reason to go for a walk – I can’t wait to take the dogs out with us. We’ve also got a lovely big garden so it’s the perfect setting for two huge dogs.’

The couple plan to take the great danes on holidays to France and the Lake District and ensure they both enjoy life with their new family.

Louise Campbell, manager of the Dogs Trust in Shrewsbury, said: ‘This is the happy ending we were all hoping for and everyone is delighted for Lily and Maddison.

‘The Williams family were the perfect match and we know they’ll give the dogs all the love and fuss they so deserve.’

After only one month in their new home, Lily turned on Maddison and the couple who adopted them returned her to the shelter.

Do you want to know how long those feelings of good will and togetherness lasted once the two dogs were placed in their new home? All of three weeks.

Blind Great Dane turns on her guide dog companion

Blind Great Dane Lily is looking for a new home after attacking her guide dog.

The six-year-old and her companion, another Great Dane called Maddison, had been rehomed together after an appeal by the Dogs Trust.

They were adopted by Anne and Len Williams from Nantwich, Cheshire, but were returned to the charity’s home at Roden near Shrewsbury.

Mr and Mrs Williams will now keep Maddison, but Lily is at the dogs’ home because the two cannot be reconciled.

It’s worth noting here that the dog the couple returned is Lily, the blind Great Dane, and not the comparatively easier to re-home Maddison. It’s no secret that disabilities are causal factors in behavioral disturbances in humans and animals, and best intentions coupled with a desire to not stigmatize disabled animals unfairly might appeal to egalitarian leanings, but they can’t trump reality. It’s worth noting that many pigment disorders have been associated with neurological problems and behavioral issues irrespective of their effects on sight, so not only could Lily be reacting to being blind, she could also have concomitant neurological disorders associated with being double merle.

“Despite the best efforts of staff and the very committed new owners, it became evident that Lily and Maddison were no longer happy to live together.

“The nature of their relationship changed in their new home environment and after careful consideration, and many attempts at re-introduction in different surroundings which continued until very recently, the decision was made that they would need to be rehomed separately,” she said.

‘Stress and uncertainty’

Lynn Barber, the head of canine behaviour at the Dogs Trust, said initially the dogs had been happy together but moving to a new home had proved stressful for Lily and she struggled to adjust to the new environment.

“The stress and uncertainty Lily felt during the move resulted in her attacking Maddison.

“Unfortunately some fights in the dog world are so distressing that it becomes too difficult to forgive each other.

“For the safety and well being of the dogs, Lily and Maddison will be rehomed separately.

“Human company and affection in their new homes will help take the place of dog companionship and ensure their happiness,” she said.

The Dogs Trust is now looking for a new home for Lily where she would be the only pet.

This should give pause to those who advocate for finding homes for all disabled puppies versus putting them down. As much as the knee-jerk bleeding hearts think that all life is so precious and that once the crime of breeding dogs like this is committed that we can’t then “punish” the defective offspring by killing them, such decisions have consequences that have to be weighed against the humane concerns of other dogs, owners, and trainers who are all impacted by raising and keeping a dog like Lily. Even the question of humane treatment of Lily does not fall all on one side of the balance.

It’s all roses and light when you can spin the story as a caring companion dog and a no-frills adoption where a blind dog won’t be inordinately burdensome on a prospective family. But that’s not what happened here. Lily was obviously so tormented that she lashed out irreconcilably with her new home and her old friend. Maddison was also terrorized by Lily and the new owners clearly sided against the much more sympathetic Lily in their decision to keep Maddison.

Why should Lily be kept alive? She’s already worn out her welcome with two families who thought they cared enough and were equipped with the skills necessary to keep her and she’s already benefited from the efforts of the Dogs Trust and an immense media campaign to find her a new home. Ten tons of sympathy doesn’t weigh very much against the practical concerns of this dog who has proven to be too much of a burden again and again.

This isn’t a call to kill every dog that might be a burden, rather it’s a call to be objective in our assessments of just how difficult such a task really is and just how rare the right home for a dog like Lily will be to find. There is no rational place here for absolutes, every dog need not be “saved” at all costs any more than every dog need be put down.

The original Daily Mail story was shared over 100,000 times of Facebook. The news of the pair’s adoption a week later was shared 35,000 times. The BBC story which documented Lily’s failure in her new home was shared less than one thousand times.

So remember that stories of feel good empathy and hope and sympathetic helpless animals are about 3 times more interesting than their happy endings, and 100 times more likely to gain traction than the brutal, unhappy, but entirely real and forseeable outcomes of unethical breeding and unreasoned “life at all costs” attitudes.  While it’s politically incorrect to discuss the very real burden of disability in humans, we can’t let etiquette trump ethics.  There needs to be two sides to this debate and that means being honest about the costs and yes BURDEN that comes with coping with dogs like Lily.  If we never acknowledge the burden, how can we hope to appreciate and aid those who choose to carry it and how can we forgive and not stigmatize those who choose not to?

About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.