Blind pup and guide dog brother feeling right at home in Philadelphia

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Jeffrey and Jermaine, a pair of black-and-white pit bull mix puppies from Philadelphia who rocked the animal rescue world with their story in mid-November, have settled into their new home together.

The duo, now 8 months old, were rescued by Operation Ava after being picked up as strays by animal-control officers in early October. Jeffrey is blind and Jermaine acts as his guide-dog, leading his brother around in new environments. A photo of the pair entwined while sleeping in their kennel at the rescue shelter was shared around the world overnight.

"I'd never seen two dogs that young who were so bonded," said Ray Little, who oversees operations at the rescue. "I've seen older dogs who have known each other for years and years be that way. But puppies don't usually have that kind of loyalty yet. They're too busy wanting to explore."

Jonathan Hochman and Veronica McKee, who are married and live just outside Philadelphia in Delaware County, were selected to adopt the brothers from a pool of hopeful applicants. The brothers went home on Nov. 25.

Ms. McKee said the couple had been looking to adopt a pair of male puppies, preferably siblings, who would grow into medium-large dogs. They had no idea Jeffrey and Jermaine were famous when they initially looked at them.

Adopting two dogs, particularly when one was handicapped, required a lot of careful consideration. The couple had to pay attention to what Jeffrey could bump into, slip on, or trip over and make appropriate changes.

"We didn't just have to puppy proof, we had to blind puppy proof," Ms. McKee said.

The couple is introducing Jeffrey to small areas at a time, gradually expanding his environment as he gets comfortable. Jermaine remains his constant companion.

"As we continue to introduce them to new spaces, Jermaine always falls back to the role of caregiver and seeing-eye dog," Ms. McKee said.

The two pups are often touching each other in some manner, and Jeffrey will physically lean on his brother to be led around in new spaces. They still cuddle together in their sleep.

"When they walk, even on separate leashes, they are always bumping into each other to check that the other one is there," Ms. McKee said. "If Jermaine is off leash, he will run around and come back to check in with Jeffrey to make sure he's OK. If they're both off leash, they stay very close and Jermaine kind of herds Jeffrey around."

Despite his blindness, Jeffrey loves to play fetch. He will listen for the ball to drop or sniff it out to find it. But if he does lose one, Jermaine comes to the rescue. He stands by the ball and puts his nose on it, waiting for Jeffrey to pick it up.

"It's remarkable how deep their bond really is," Ms. McKee said.

The dogs' Facebook page, "Brotherly Love Pups," has had more than 37,000 likes since it was created Nov. 21. Messages and comments on the page come from around the world.

Ms. McKee said Jeffrey and Jermaine have taught her and Mr. Hochman the value of living simply.

"We've learned the power of simplicity, from paring things back to ensure their safety," she said. "You really don't need much to be comfortable. A roof overhead, some food, a warm blanket, and family is really all you need."

Block News Alliance consists of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio. Alexandra Mester is a reporter for The Blade.

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