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Dogs who help humans get free eye exams

CLEARWATER, Fla. – More than 20 dogs who spend their lives helping humans got free eye exams on Wednesday at BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Clearwater.

Dr. Jessica Stine, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist for BluePearl, conducts an eye exam on a therapy dog named Ruger.

Dr. Jessica Stine, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist for BluePearl, conducts an eye exam on a therapy dog named Ruger.

Some of the dogs who came to the hospital on Wednesday are seeing-eye dogs and some are “mobility” dogs, who open doors and pick things up for disabled owners. Others are therapy dogs, calming influences for children with disabilities or who just need a soothing presence as they learn to read.

“I enjoy giving back to the service dog community,” said Dr. Jessica Stine of BluePearl, who performed the exams. “We’re making sure they don’t have any eye problems, so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

Ruger, who came in for an eye exam on Wednesday, has a badge that says "I am a therapy dog."

Ruger, who came in for an eye exam on Wednesday, has a badge that says “I am a therapy dog.”

Stine is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and, like other BluePearl specialists, she has received years of additional training to become a specialist in her field. Others helping the service dogs on Wednesday included BluePearl’s Dr. Jennifer Ortolani and veterinary technicians Christina Page and Nicole Palumbo.

Dr. Jessica Stine of BluePearl Veterinary Partners conducts an eye exam on Biscayne, a mobility dog.

Dr. Jessica Stine of BluePearl Veterinary Partners conducts an eye exam on Biscayne, a mobility dog.

Jeanne Gates brought her seeing-eye dog, Tuesday, to the hospital for the free check-up. Gates said that Tuesday means a lot to her and she’s grateful for the help her dog provides.

“She means independence,” she said. “She means love, lots of love.”

The free exams are part of a month-long national effort, which is organized by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and sponsored by Stokes Pharmacy. Learn more by clicking here.

Dr. Jessica Stine performs an eye exam on Lacey, a retired breeding dog for guide dogs.

Dr. Jessica Stine performs an eye exam on Lacey, a retired breeding dog for guide dogs.

Dr. Jennifer Ortolani, Dr, Jessica Stine and veterinary technician Christina Page, with Lacey, a breeder of service dogs owned by Lara Cerri.

Dr. Jennifer Ortolani, Dr, Jessica Stine and veterinary technician Christina Page, with Lacey, a retired breeder of service dogs owned by Lara Cerri.

Patti Goffe of New Horizons brought in five service and therapy dogs.

Patti Goffe of New Horizons brought in five service and therapy dogs.