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Dog's Best Friend

Bill, a lucky pooch, becomes a guide dog for his blinded pal, Ben - another canine

 

(People Weekly 24/8/98)

It was a sight to break any animal lover's heart. Responding to a call from an Averley, England, resident in February, local dog pound owner Michael Feiler found two Jack Russell terriers cow ering on the village's main street. One was bleeding from the eyes, the other was standing guard, barking and snapping if anyone approached. "They were petrified," Feiler says.

Soothing the pair with dog biscuits, he raced them to a veterinarian, where the larger dog dubbed Ben-had to have both eyes removed and his eyelids sewn shut. "We believe someone had stabbed him," says Feiler; who estimates the terriers, both now about 4 years old, had been strays for a few months. After two days at the vet's, Ben rejoined his protector; named Bill.

That's when this tale of dogged devotion turned truly extraordinary. Bill began acting as a guide dog for his blinded pal, leading Ben around the pound's yard as Ben hung on to the scruff of Bill's neck. "Bill walked him around until he knew exactly where to go," says Feiler. After a TV crew captured their buddy act, more than 5,000 adoption offers poured in. Feiler chose Lady Yvonne Becher, who lives in the seaside town of Brighton with husband Sir William, a retired army officer; and another Jack Russell, Rosie. With Bill's nudges and tugs, Ben quickly learned to negotiate the elderly couple's three-bedroom townhouse and two-tiered garden. At night the pooches sleep curled up together in a basket. "There's a bond between them," Lady Becher says. "They're rather like a married couple"