Lake Norman & Mooresville

Tale of teamwork: Dog’s sight restored

N.C. State Dr. Elizabeth Curto, from left, N.C. State veterinary student Lauren Hessler, Drake Smith and Tyler Antrican spend time Thursday with Dafney before Smith and Antrican brought her home.
N.C. State Dr. Elizabeth Curto, from left, N.C. State veterinary student Lauren Hessler, Drake Smith and Tyler Antrican spend time Thursday with Dafney before Smith and Antrican brought her home. COURTESY OF DRAKE SMITH

Drake Smith always saw something special about Dafney. Now there’s something special about Dafney seeing.

An operation June 10 at N.C. State University restored vision for the 7-year-old, 20-pound poodle mix who had been blinded by cataracts. Smith, a member of Lake Norman Animal Rescue, recently made Dafney his pet project after the dog had been left at Iredell County Animal Services & Control becaude her owner died the day before. He quickly learned that she had diabetes.

Thanks to Smith’s quick action and some powerful assists by pet lovers and fate, he said Dafney is more energetic and adoptable than ever. “It’s amazing. It’s very bizarre,” said Smith from Raleigh before driving Dafney back to Lake Norman on June 11. “We went into the same exam room that we did on Tuesday when we brought her in. That day, when she explored the room, she ran into every wall, the cabinets, everything.

“When they brought her in this time, she came straight for me and Tyler. She got loved on and then explored the heck out of the room and didn’t bump into anything.”

He said the surgery, called phacoemulsification, isn’t especially rare. What’s rare is the sequence of events that led to Wednesday’s outcome.

When he learned Dafney had diabetes, “they (the Iredell shelter) knew they had to get her out of there quickly because they do not have insulin at their facility.” He said Administrative Shelter Assistant Tina Davidson worked to facilitate that.

“I rushed Dafney to our vet to have bloodwork done and get her some insulin. As the vet was examining her, he verified with the vet tech that they do not keep any insulin there. However, she said that, early that morning, a woman had dropped off a full vial of insulin that she was using for her diabetic Schnauzer that recently passed. It was meant to be.”

Smith said the Veterinary Hospital of Davidson was instrumental in getting Dafney’s diabetes under control and referring her to N.C. State. He contacted three universities about performing cataract surgery on Dafney, and N.C. State’s veterinary college was the only one that responded. “If N.C. State hadn’t stepped up, we couldn’t have done the surgery,” he said.

Susan Boyer, president of the Lake Norman rescue, confirmed the dog’s situation was unusual in many ways.

“For this group, it is highly unusual to take a dog with this many issues out of a shelter solely because we do have to be practical about what we take because, obviously, it’s a space issue. … Our only requirements are that they have to be friendly.

“It was just a connection with Drake, and that’s why he sort of took the bull by the horns,” including ongoing fundraising. “We’ve never taken in a blind dog before because there are other rescues that actually shelter blind dogs. But with this dog, there really was no other group that stepped up to take her.”

Smith said the fundraising is meant to not only cover the surgery – which cost about $3,000 – but the myriad exams, bloodwork and other expenses involved. He didn’t have a figure for how much money has been raised.

Tyler Antrican, Smith’s partner who helped him take care of Dafney, said that when they first picked her up, “I knew she needed help. She also needed a chance. She needed us to do our best to give her that chance.

“In an odd way, she has taught me something in her short time with us: No matter the circumstances you come across in life, you should always make the most of them and hope for the best.”

Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at

Want to help?

Lake Norman Animal Rescue is seeking help to pay for Dafney’s surgery as well as pre- and post-surgery exams and expenses. Donations are tax-deductible due to the rescue’s nonprofit status. To donate, go to or The mailing address is LNAR, P.O. Box 4708, Mooresville 28117. Be sure to mark the donation for Dafney.