Original Published on Jun 22, 2022 at 08:53
By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Morla may be blind, but along with her popular sidekick Keeley, she’s captured the gaze of fans from around the world.
Owned by Chatham residents Jocelyn and Joe Milazzo, the story of the two photogenic Dalmatians has gone viral on social media.
On Instagram the two have 53,000 followers and another 109,000 on TikTok, with one of their posts racking up 2.2-million views.
On Instagram, the dogs can be found at spottedfriend101 and on TikTok they’re simply known as morla.keeley.
“People on social media love their interaction,” says fur baby mom Jocelyn. “They help remind people you just don’t give up.”
Acquired from a breeder when she was just eight weeks old, Morla recently turned 13. In 2016, the happy dog developed glaucoma, seemingly overnight.
According to Milazzo, Morla awoke one morning with an eye that was “swollen and blue.” After getting checked by her veterinarian it was discovered she was blind in the eye from glaucoma.
The dog underwent laser surgery in Toronto to help relieve the painful pressure. Unfortunately it didn’t work and her other eye was affected.
“Morla was in a lot of pain,” Milazzo explained. “She would just lie on the couch and she didn’t want to eat.
“The veterinarian recommended that she have both eyes removed so that’s what we did,” Milazzo said. “It was a huge decision. We had to do it because she was in so much pain.”
Enter their other Dalmatian – four-month-old Keeley.
The Milazzos acquired her from the same breeder to be a buddy to Morla.
And what a buddy she turned out to be.
After the elder dog’s initial recovery from eye surgery, the bond between the two began to change.
Keeley stepped forward to become Morla’s guiding paw by helping her with day-to-day activities.
“It was a switch in their roles,” Milazzo said. “When we first brought Keeley home, Morla thought she was her mother.
Morla navigates inside the house by skirting around the perimeter of each room while waving her nose back and forth.
She also uses her nose to ring bells at the backdoor to let her owners know when she needs to use the facilities.
Usually, said Milazzo, Keeley is by her side.
If Morla is about to bang into something or in danger, Keeley uses her bark and her body to keep Morla out of harm’s way.
Milazzo also claps and uses the word “danger” to warn Morla if she is about to walk into something, adding that while the dog can’t see, her hearing and sense of smell are better than average, likely due to her blindness.
Social media users are eating it up.
Milazzo had started an Instagram account for the dogs about three years ago and put up a TikTok account for Morley and Keeley in January 2021.
The dogs, who have their own bedroom where many of the videos are filmed, have a varied following including several sponsorships from animal and pet product companies.
Plus, said Milazzo, she uses both platforms to help advocacy groups such as pet rescue initiatives.
Along with being a helper, Keeley has plenty of fans that love her good looks, which include black heart-shaped markings around her eyes and nose.
When she started posting the dogs on social media – she never posts images of herself – Milazzo had no idea her beloved Dalmatians would be a hit.
“People have a soft spot for both of them,” Milazzo explained. “They are like sisters.”
Like the tagline on their social media accounts said: “They are two Dalmatians living their best lives.”
This item reprinted with permission from The Voice, Chatham, Ontario