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Harley, a yellow lab who lost her eyes to glaucoma, visits children at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Greenville.
LAUREN PETRACCA/Staff

As hard as the staff at Shriners Hospital for Children works to make life easier for their charges, waiting to see a doctor can be nerve-wracking, treatments can be painful and recovering from surgery can be hard.

But as soon as Harley rounds the corner, once glum and frightened faces beam. Tiny hands reach out to pet her. And there are giggles as she licks their cheeks.

Like any therapy dog, Harley can lighten the load of a debilitating condition.

But the yellow lab with the smiling face brings something special to the mix. She is blind.

And that creates a special bond between her and these kids in braces and wheelchairs.

“Oh my gosh, she’s the sweetest dog ever,” gushed Maryann Jarnagin after Harley visited her in her hospital bed, where she was resting from scoliosis surgery.

“It’s amazing that without any eyes she can do that,” said the 16-year-old Charleston girl. “It does show that no matter what, you can get through anything.”

Many Shriners patients are in isolation or on bed rest, making it difficult to interact with others, said child life specialist Elaine Hardin. That can mean focusing on what they can’t do instead of what they can do. But Harley allows them to interact with someone else, and makes them realize that they don’t have to be absolutely perfect.

“They all feel like if she can do it, I can do it,” said Harley’s owner Rita Harrell. “She has overcome her obstacles and look how happy she is and here she is making us happy.

“So there’s hope for everybody.”

Blind overnight

It was about five years ago, when Harley was 5, that she developed glaucoma, Harrell told The…