Jonathan Hochman holds Jeffrey, who is blind. Jeffrey and his brother, Jermaine, were picked up as 6-month-old strays in Philadelphia in October. Jermaine acts as a seeing-eye dog for his brother, and the story of their close sibling relationship went viral all over the world in mid-November.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY VERONICA MCKEE AND JONATHAN HOCHMAN
PHILADELPHIA — Jeffrey and Jermaine, a pair of black-and-white “pit bull”-mix puppies from Philadelphia who rocked the animal rescue world with their story in mid-November, have settled into their new home together.
The duo, now 8 months old, were rescued by Operation Ava after being picked up as strays by animal-control officers in early October. Jeffrey is blind, and Jermaine acts as his guide-dog, leading his brother around in new environments. A photo of the pair entwined while sleeping in their kennel at the rescue was shared around the world overnight.
“I’d never seen two dogs that young who were so bonded,” said Ray Little, who oversees operations at the rescue. “I’ve seen older dogs who have known each other for years and years be that way. But puppies don’t usually have that kind of loyalty yet. They’re too busy wanting to explore.”
Jonathan Hochman and Veronica McKee, who are married and live just outside Philadelphia in Delaware County, were selected to adopt the brothers from a pool of hopeful applicants. The brothers went home on Nov. 25.
Ms. McKee said the couple had been looking to adopt a pair of male puppies, preferably siblings, who would grow into medium-large dogs. They had no idea Jeffrey and Jermaine were famous when they looked at them.
Adopting two dogs, particularly when one was handicapped, required a lot of careful consideration. The couple had to pay attention to what Jeffrey could bump into, slip on, or trip over and make appropriate changes.
“We didn’t just have to puppy proof, we had to blind-puppy proof,” Ms. McKee said.
The couple are introducing Jeffrey to small areas at a time, gradually expanding his environment as he gets comfortable. Jermaine remains his constant companion.
“As we continue to introduce them to new spaces, Jermaine always falls back to the role of caregiver and seeing-eye dog,” Ms. McKee said.
The two pups are often touching each other in some manner, and Jeffrey will physically lean on his brother to be led around in new spaces. They still cuddle together in their sleep.
“When they walk, even on separate leashes, they are always bumping into each other to check that the other one is there,” Ms. McKee said. “If Jermaine is off leash, he will run around and come back to check in with Jeffrey to make sure he’s OK. If they’re both off leash, they stay very close, and Jermaine kind of herds Jeffrey around.”
Despite his blindness, Jeffrey loves to play fetch. He will listen for the ball to drop or sniff it out to find it. But if he does lose one, Jermaine comes to the rescue. He stands by the ball and puts his nose on it, waiting for Jeffrey to pick it up.
“It’s remarkable how deep their bond really is,” Ms. McKee said.
The dogs’ Facebook page, “Brotherly Love Pups,” has had more than 37,000 likes since it was created Nov. 21. Messages and comments on the page come from around the world.
If the pups had been found in Toledo just a few years ago, they likely would have been killed at the direction of former dog warden Tom Skeldon because of their “pit-bull” breed. Mr. Skeldon resigned in 2009 after a public outcry for change at the agency.
Nikki Morey, executive director of Planned Pethood, said instances of rescue animals in the Toledo area being as bonded as Jeffrey and Jermaine are few and far between.
“We get pairs that would be nice to adopt together, but it’s not mandatory,” she said. “On very rare occasions do we make it mandatory because it would be detrimental to both of them to be separated.”
Ms. Morey said many rescue animals often do better when separated from mates with whom they may have been rescued.
“They seem to kind of release the old ghosts faster,” she said. “But there are times when it would a death blow for them to be divided.”
Planned Pethood has two pairs of dogs that the organization would like to adopt out together but that could be separated. Basset hounds Bella and Maizie and black Labrador retriever mixes Lacey and Morgan are available for adoption.
If they are adopted together, the fees are reduced.
Ms. McKee said Jeffrey and Jermaine have taught her and Mr. Hochman the value of living simply.
“We’ve learned the power of simplicity, from paring things back to ensure their safety,” she said. “You really don’t need much to be comfortable. A roof overhead, some food, a warm blanket, and family is really all you need.”