Sunday, March 6, 2011

Brave Kiwi Saves Master

Lost and alone on the streets of Christchurch as masonry fell around him during the terrifying earthquake, blind office worker Blair McConnell was led to safety by his faithful dog Kiwi.

Now the loyal labrador-retriever cross is being hailed a hero for navigating McConnell to safety amid the carnage and rubble along the banks of the city's Avon River.

Despite falling concrete and the screams of panic around him, the eight-year-old, curly coat, guide dog stayed on task until a passing motorist stopped and gave the shaken pair a ride home.

Almost completely blind, McConnell, with Kiwi at his side, would travel each day to work at Telecom's Old Exchange Building in Hereford St. The sales rep would normally have been out at lunch on Colombo St at 12.51pm when the earthquake struck on February 22, but was dealing with a customer on the phone.

"I dived under the desk. Kiwi was already under it," he said. "I grabbed his harness and he was quite keen to get out.

"We had got out of the building and into the middle of Hereford St with hundreds of others when the second big aftershock hit. There was lots of screaming and hysterical people."

His faithful companion Kiwi went to work and it took nearly three hours for the dog, who is nearing retirement, to get a terrified and disoriented McConnell home.

"Kiwi was fine. Some of that has got to do with the bond, they will do exactly what is required," McConnell said. "Some dogs feed off the emotion of the handler and the emotions of people around them but, fortunately, Kiwi puts what he needs to do above that."

Despite Kiwi's heroic efforts, McConnell isn't building his best mate up too much.

"I'm not saying he is the best guide dog ever because there are other guide dogs that would have done the same thing, but this is a strength of his," he said.

Kiwi's bravery is already the stuff of urban legend. The story goes that the dog guided his master on foot across town to his home, which has left McConnell feeling "a bit of a fraud", knowing he got a ride, but: "I'm quite sure he would have walked me home that day if he had needed to."



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