A full blooded yellow Labrador retriever named Karloff changed Pete Duffy’s life. Pete is legally blind, and Karloff is not only his guide dog and buddy – he also restored Pete’s ability to live his dreams.
Pete always wore glasses as a child, but when a rare progressive genetic disorder took his sight as an adult, his world closed in.
He had to stop driving. Other people had to help him get places.
When people saw him walking down the street with his white cane, they ignored him, afraid to get involved.
But with Karloff, Pete can literally travel the globe. Now when people see him walking down the street, “they say hello – great dog, beautiful dog,” he said. “People open up, it’s amazing.”
Karloff came into Pete’s world nine years ago, when the two were matched by Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a nonprofit organization based in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. It was January 6, 2005, 11 years after Pete was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a non-treatable condition that gradually causes the retina to deteriorate.
Single at the time, and living in Neptune Beach, he had given up his career as a marine terminal operator. But then something amazing happened. “When that door closed, another one slowly opened,” he said. He joined a band, and “literally fulfilled a childhood dream of playing music.”
In between gigs as a bass guitarist and singer, Pete also worked part time in a furniture store in Jacksonville Beach, and Karloff helped him get there.
The two bonded so completely over the years, that Karloff developed a sixth sense about Pete’s wants and needs. When they are out in public, Karloff automatically seeks ramps instead of stairs. He guides his master through parking lots using the safest possible route. And he curls up at Pete’s feet in airplanes – literally giving Pete the ability to travel the world.
When Pete married a few years ago, he and Karloff moved to a Palm Valley horse farm owned by Pete’s wife, Lea, and her sister. That gave Karloff lots of land to run around on, and other dogs to play with.
Then a year ago, Pete discovered grape sized lumps on Karloff’s neck, and his veterinarian diagnosed lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
“He had taken care of me, now it was my turn to take care of him,” Pete said. Karloff received 14 chemotherapy treatments over five months, which were expensive. So Pete started a fundraising campaign to get help.
The treatments were successful – and Karloff is now fine.
“My vet is extremely amazed,” said Pete, who wrote a song in tribute to his dog. The lyrics reflect his love and gratitude:
“Before I met you, the whole world was closing in on me…before I met you, people used to shy away from me…before I met you, I never knew how wet a kiss could be.” And the chorus: “The world’s opened up in front of me. We’ll take it on together – you and me.”