Losing any pet is devastating, but when it is a service dog it is even worse. For Michael Birenbaum, who is blind, it was a terrible two days to endure after his guide dog Levi got spooked by New Years eve fireworks and got lost. Fortunately someone found Levi and looked after him until he could be reunited with his grateful owner.
“He’s like my child. That’s the way I look at him because he means the world to me,” Birenbaum said. He lost his sight when he was 11 years old after being accidentally shot in the head by his younger brother. Though he lives a very independent life, he depends on Levi to help him get around, navigate traffic and avoid other hazards. “He helps me travel everywhere, avoid dangerous areas, or helps me if cars don’t see me,” said Birenbaum.
Nikki Meza is the woman who found Levi just a few blocks away from his home, and immediately realized he was a service dog. “When I saw his tags…you could see he was an important dog,” she said. “Somebody is worried sick about him and needs him.” But when she called the number on his tag for the guide dog service it was closed for the holiday so she had to wait until Wednesday morning to find out who he belonged to. In the meantime, Birenbaum waited anxiously at home.
As soon as she found out who he belonged to Meza delivered him home, where Levi ran straight into the arms of his pal. A tearful Birenbaum who relies on Levi as a lifeline of sorts told Meza, “This means the world to me. You brought my world back.”