‘Like a family member’: Orange County vet goes beyond call of duty to help woman, her seeing-eye dogs

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CARRBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – There is no bond like the one between a human and their dog. That is especially true for those canines that make a life in the dark much brighter. Tragically, it also means they can lose their own lives doing so.

Aoife Iredale was blinded before her third birthday. About 15 years ago, she was seriously injured when she was hit by a drunk driver.

“Going about 45 miles per hour, ran up on the sidewalk, and left us to die,” Iredale said. “He killed Inca and I would have traded places with her in a heartbeat.”

She almost lost her life that day and is still suffering from the effects.

Seeing-eye dogs have always been an important day of Iredale’s life. A new group of friends made a decision to help her when Inca was killed.

“She’s just a remarkable person,” said Dr. Virginia Walters. She is a veterinarian with the VCA Legion Road Animal Hospital. She is one of many who, over the past 15 years, has provided free care for Iredale’s dogs. They haven’t billed her once.

“It’s about maintaining a bond and not just seeing a patient in front of you, but a family member. And so, I think that’s really what that stems from. I think it’s more of a culture thing.”

Dr. Virginia Walters

Iredale added: “I mean, I would go hungry before my girls ever would always. But not having to fear for food security for all my girls (or) what if they get sick (or) what if they get hurt, how will I pay for it, how will I have to choose.”

Walters came to Iredale’s home when it was time to say goodbye to her last seeing-eye companion so that she could pass away peacefully.

“I know that she wasn’t scared. I know that she wasn’t afraid and that she felt safe and loved,” Iredale said. “That is the last and one of the greatest gifts that I, as the human half of a seeing-eye partnership, can give my canine partner.”

Iredale and her current dog, Livie, are now moving from Carrboro to Pittsburgh where she will study to help those in hospice care. She will help those who are dying as those who helped her continue to live.

Help has also come over the years from grocery workers who helped her shop at Harris Teeter, Southern States, Fifth Season Gardening, and the Friendly Barber. Iredale said she and Livie are also really going to miss their dog walker, Chris Wend.

“This is one of the things that reminds me that there is more love than pain in the world, and it’s something that is life-saving not just for my girls, but for me,” Iredale said.

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