A Los Angeles woman’s labor of love has helped thousands of blind dogs regain their confidence and quality of life.
It was about 10 years ago that Silvie Bordeaux’s toy poodle Muffin was diagnosed with cataracts.
“There was one day he just walked into the wall and then fell down the stairs,” she said. “And I was like, oh, my God, what’s going on?”
She took Muffin to an ophthalmologist and tests showed that Muffin was going blind.
“I was very upset about it, and different people were telling me I should think about putting [Muffin] to sleep, that it’s cruel to have a blind dog, and I thought that was crazy,” she said.
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Bordeaux did a lot of research and found that there was nothing on the market to help blind dogs.
She got to work on creating a device. During the time she was working on it, Muffin had to have emergency surgery due to a mass in his stomach, and there was fear he wouldn’t make it.
“I got on my hands and knees and I plead that God, please help my little guy, and I promise his name won’t be in vain,” she said. “And if this device works, I’ll do everything I can to get it on the market and we’ll be advocates, we’ll be of service for blind dogs. So literally, it’s a love story.”
After “enough prototypes to fill a museum,” Bordeaux said, she finally settled on the right design and called it Muffin’s Halo for Blind Dogs.
The Halo Effect
The halo consist of three pieces: A harness, what Bordeaux calls the “angel wing”—a raised collar that supports the halo ring—and the halo itself, inserted into the wing.
Bordeaux said the harness can feel like a Thundershirt pressure wrap on some dogs. “It makes the dogs feel cuddled, so it eases the anxiety,” she said.
The wing has lightweight foam inside.
“So, when a dog bumps into a hard object, it absorbs the impact, creating like a little bumper glide. You know, like when you’re in a bumper car, you just bounce off the walls. Well, that’s what happens. And with the material I use for the halo, it also redirects them, so it pushes them away and creates a nice glide for them.“
Dogs can eat, sleep, and play with the halo on.
Bordeaux said dogs can sense their improved mobility almost immediately. “You put the halo on them and then all of a sudden, they realize, ‘Oh, my God,’ and they start moving quick, their tails are wagging,” she said.
Every Angel Deserves a Halo
Bordeaux said she receives letters from people who say Muffin’s Halo has transformed their dog.
“You gave me my baby back, my boy just greeted me at the door for the first time in four months, you know,” she said. “Or little Mickey now is going back and playing in his favorite room because he can find it. And he’s so confident and I’m chasing him all the time. He’s so happy.”
The halo has received multiple awards and been named to top pet products lists.
You gave me my baby back, my boy just greeted me at the door for the first time in four months.
Dogs can lose their sight for a number of reasons, including cataracts, glaucoma, trauma, or sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS).
Blind senior dogs can become sedentary, and the halo can give them confidence to move around.
“Blind dogs do what we call mapping, so they’ll bump into something and they’ll smell to memorize the smell to know OK, I better slow down here, this is a hard surface,” she said. “They map the whole place.”
Bordeaux said the halo gets dogs thinking, moving, and exploring.
“It has them having a great quality of life verses being sad in the bed, sleeping all day,” she said.
A Halo for all Shapes and Sizes
The halo is for little dogs, big dogs, and all sizes in between, and the harness comes in red, white, blue, and pink.
In addition, there are black and gray wings that have “blind” printed on them.
“The reason I designed it with ‘blind’ is because, with the angel wings, sometimes people thought it was just a costume,” said Bordeaux.
Once people see that the dog is blind, they understand.
“And they also proceed with caution when they’re approaching a blind dog. You can’t just directly go put your hand right in their face…it startles,” she said.
Giving Blind Dogs a Second Chance
“What I found out in the beginning, was that a lot of dogs were being dumped at the shelters and put to sleep, and I was just like, this is crazy,” said Bordeaux.
She felt so fortunate that Muffin had a second chance she decided to create a nonprofit called Second Chances for Blind Dogs.
“So if (people) couldn’t afford to buy a halo, then we had the foundation that would donate them,” she said.
Last year alone, Second Chances helped more than 1,000 dogs.
“We’ve also helped some blind dogs who had painful glaucoma get their eyes removed,” said Bordeaux.
Bordeaux’s dream is for all blind dogs in shelters and rescues to be wearing Muffin’s Halos to help them navigate themselves into their forever homes and take the stigma of blindness away.
So far, Muffin’s Halo has helped more than 50,000 dogs all over the world.
“We’ve come a long way,” Bordeaux said. “I’m so proud.”