Watch Norm Moody's English setter, Golly, work a field for pheasants or sharp-tailed grouse, and you never would know the dog has a major handicap: He's blind.

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Watch Norm Moody’s English setter, Golly, work a field for pheasants or sharp-tailed grouse, and you never would know the dog has a major handicap.

“People who see us hunting have no idea he’s blind,” said Moody, 64, an avid bird hunter who lives near Hackensack, Minn.

Golly (pronounced “Gully”) hunted sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants and prairie chickens this month on South Dakota’s expansive National Grasslands with Moody and two hunting buddies.

“He quarters back and forth just like a regular setter,” Moody said of his 11-year-old dog. “When he gets on a scent, he goes into slow motion, and I know right away he’s on a bird. Then he locks up and points.”

When the bird flushes and Moody shoots it, Golly knows where to look for the downed bird.

“He usually heads right for it,” Moody said. “I think it’s the sound, the fluttering of the wings, and he heads in that direction and finds it.”

Said hunting buddy Don Collins, 70: “He’s miraculous; just a super dog. He almost brings tears to your eyes.”

Although Moody lives in the north woods, he no longer hunts Golly there for ruffed grouse. Instead, he hunts 35 days each fall in the open prairies of South Dakota, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, Canada, where his dog is less likely to run into anything. Barbed-wire fences pose problems, but Moody keeps his dog away from them.

“I make a sound if he’s going to run into something, and he stops. I’m his seeing-eye person,” Moody said.

Hunting buddy Larry Olson, 67, of Backus, Minn., said Golly has adapted well to his blindness.

“It’s amazing to me that he doesn’t step in a hole,” Olson said. “I’ve never seen him fall down.”

Golly doesn’t seem bothered by his lack of sight, Moody said. “He’s really a happy dog.”

When Golly was a puppy, Moody had no idea the dog had eye problems. But Moody noticed Golly bumping into brush while hunting ruffed grouse four years ago.

“I thought he was just a little clumsy,” Moody said. “But two years ago, I knew something wasn’t right.” Golly had trouble jumping into his portable kennel.

“I took him to a veterinarian who specializes in eyesight. She did a battery of tests, and he was almost totally blind.”

Golly has progressive retinal atrophy, a deterioration of the retinal cells, a condition that eventually causes blindness. The hereditary disease has no known cure. It affects many breeds. Breeding dogs now can be tested genetically for the disease, so people buying puppies from tested parents can be assured their dogs won’t develop it.

“They compensate with their hearing and sense of smell, and that’s what he’s been doing,” Moody said.

He said he was smitten with the dog from the get-go.

“He’s just a good dog, so mellow. And he’s a good hunter.” And Golly has endeared himself to Moody and his hunting friends.

“He has about the best disposition of any dog I’ve seen,” Olson said.

Moody has ordered another English setter puppy but doesn’t plan to retire Golly soon.

“He’ll likely hunt two or three more years,” Moody said. “Other than his eyes, he’s healthy. And he just has a ball hunting.”