LEXINGTON, Ky. — A blind and deaf therapy dog is teaching people how to see with the heart.
At 11 years old, Australian shepherd Willow is a loyal companion to Elizabeth Slone and a dutiful therapy dog.
"He can go out in the backyard. He knows his surroundings, you know, of course, don't change anything around the house," Elizabeth Slone chuckled. "He's been the easiest dog I've ever had."
Slone rescued Willow alongside his sister Ella from a puppy mill in Falmouth. Each of the dogs were born with a condition leaving them with limited sight, Willow getting the worst of it. Over the years though, Slone came to realize Willow had a gift.
"He was seeing the world, he was seeing it, you know, with his heart. In that way, I was like he's really got something to give here," Slone said.
As a puppy, Willow was very nearly put down, and Slone believes he is here for a reason. When she came upon the idea of pet therapy, she knew that was his purpose.
Slone says Willow took to being a therapy dog immediately.
Whether he is visiting children at a school or veterans at a retirement home, Willow's gentle spirit and ability to connect with others leaves behind an impactful legacy.
"Unconditional love, being non-judgmental, and just looking with our heart rather than our eyes and seeing that person for who they are," Slone said of the lessons Willow teaches.
The dog is proving an individual is so much more than the limitations of their physical body, but also the contents of their spirit.
"I just think that we should see the capability and the possibility rather than the disability," Slone said. "You know, it's not about being able to herd sheep or do agility and oh look what my dog won all of these awards. You know, winning your heart is more important."
This story was originally published by Claire Crouch at WLEX.