A blind/deaf therapy dog with a lesson for all

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — A dog in Lexington is making a lot of friends.

Sure, most dogs get a lot of attention walking down the street.

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But here’s why you need to get to know Willow. He’s extra special because he sees the world, and people, not with his eyes but with his heart.

He doesn’t need to hear, or even see someone, to love them.

“Seeing the world with your heart rather than your eyes,” says owner Elizabeth Slone.

Because 10-year-old Willow can’t see or hear. He’s both blind and deaf which made his first owner give him up.

Which made Elizabeth, love him all the more.

“He’s been the easiest dog. I think it just took finding the right owner,” says Elizabeth.

Willow was rescued from a puppy mill, his disabilities caused by poor breeding.

“The thing with dogs is they forget and they also forgive,” says Elizabeth.

Despite a difficult start to life, Willow still wants to work which is in his blood as an Australian Shepherd.

But his job isn’t typical, like herding sheep. He’s a therapy dog.

Willow visits nursing homes and patients at hospitals.

“Oh my gosh, as soon as Willow walks in their faces light up and smiles just like it makes me smile right now just thinking about em,” says Elizabeth.

He also joins after school programs, so kids who struggle with reading aloud can practice on him with no judgment.

He gets it since things don’t come so easily to him, either.

“It helps them build up their confidence and gets them encouraged to read and develop better reading skills,” says Elizabeth.

One of Willow’s best buds? A Purple Heart World War II veteran Willow visits at home.

He can’t see or even hear how happy he makes people, which shows he doesn’t do it to be praised.

“He’s just a great dog,” says Elizabeth.

But something tells us he knows just how much of a difference he’s making in their lives, whether it’s an eight-year-old kid who struggles reading or a 96-year-old war vet who’s in and out of the hospital.

“Yeah, it’s amazing,” says Elizabeth.

If only we all could see the world like Willow does.

Willow’s owner thinks his story could have an impact even beyond the people he’s helping every day.

Elizabeth hopes to turn his life story into an animated movie. She’s working on a script right now with the working title “Blind”.

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Christy Bollinger joined the ABC 36 news team as a reporter in March 2018. Christy comes from a little western Kentucky town called Cadiz. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May 2017 with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Criminology. Christy is thrilled to be working at her dream job in her home state. She is passionate about storytelling and you can see her weekdays on ABC 36 News at 5 and 6 p.m. She's covered everything from visits from the sitting president and vice president, to high-profile murder cases. When not chasing stories, Christy loves nothing more than being at the beach and says life is just better with sand between your toes and waves crashing at your feet. She is also a big animal lover. She's a fur momma and her mini-Australian Shepherd, Milly, standard Australian Shepherd, Bennie, and her Maine Coon, Cheeto, are the loves of her life. Christy encourages you to send her any story ideas you may have. Find her on Facebook at Christy Bollinger ABC 36, tweet her @ChristyB_news, or email her at CBollinger@wtvq.com.