Man takes dog on incredible 1,100 mile hike after she goes blind

When Katana the eight-year-old Shiba Inu lost her vision, her owner Kyle knew he couldn’t leave her behind. Kyle Rohrig, 29, knew it would be risky to take Katana along with him on his long-distance hikes, but he refused to complete the trail alone. Instead, he decided to bring Katana along to help her get her confidence back. Katana and Kyle had completed the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail together and were in the middle of a 2,650 mile hike of the Pacific Crest Trail when glaucoma clouded the dog’s left eye. The pair had to head home to get Katana surgery, but returned to the trail once the vet had said she was okay.

When she lost her vision in her right eye, making the dog fully blind, Katana become cautious. ‘She was very jerky in her movements and would second guess herself at every turn,’ said Kyle. ‘It would sometimes take her minutes to find the courage to hop up or down from the couch or even to cross a threshold from indoors to outdoors or vice versa – and she always needed gratuitous verbal encouragement to do any of it. ‘All of this seemed pretty normal given her new circumstances, but due to her personality and past accomplishments this was heartbreaking to witness.’ Kyle knew how to get Katana back to her old self: take her along on a 1,100 mile hike on the Florida Trail.

Taking Katana on the Florida Trail as a recently blind dog was a calculated risk,’ Kyle explained. ‘In order for her to be as successful at being blind as possible – she needed to “live” her blindness. ‘To explore and reach her full potential, she needed to be worked with full time and in constantly changing and evolving environments/landscapes. ‘Sure, she could memorize the layout of a house and live out the rest of her days in familiar comfort but then she would only be great at navigating one place. ‘When I brought Katana out here, it was either to sink or swim. The only catch being… I wasn’t going to let her sink. We’d been eating and sleeping her blindness for months, but once out there on the trail, we’d be breathing it as well.’ Kyle and Katana began their journey on 8 January. Over the next 72 days they trekked across the state, facing alligators, snakes, busy highways, and disappearing paths along the way.


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