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Simon the Hero Dog

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By Nancy Leighton
Every morning, East Atlanta resident David Furukawa, who is legally blind, harnessed up his guide dog Simon to walk his 4-year-old son William a few hundred feet to the Kidzz First School at the First Iconium Baptist Church. Parents and neighbors were used to seeing David, Simon, and Will walking by, and they watched for them. On September 23, a car hit the trio as they crossed Brownwood Avenue. The dog sensed the car was coming and managed to push the little boy far enough away not to be seriously injured. Will had scrapes and bruises; David suffered a number of broken bones, including his knee, and other injuries. Simon took the brunt of the blow and had a broken leg, a gash on his shoulder, and multiple internal injuries.
School parents quickly stepped in and carried Will home to his mother Kate. The dog was so concerned about what was happening to the young boy that he hobbled home in spite of his serious injuries. When Simon got home, he curled up at Kate’s feet. Everyone rushed back to the corner. It was decided that Will should go to Children’s Healthcare at Hughes Spalding, since David would be transferred by ambulance to Grady Health System just one block away. Friends and neighbors took Simon to the veterinarian, but he did not survive his injuries.
At the accident scene other parents and neighbors stayed with David and rendered any assistance they could while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The driver of the car also stayed at the scene to face the police.
Simon was a beautiful brindle coat Boxer; he was trained at Pilot Dogs, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. When the puppies leave their mother, they are raised by volunteer foster families with children. They are socialized to be around lots of people, traffic, and other animals, and to be in meetings, in an office setting, and other situations that a visually impaired person is likely to encounter.
When the dog is 12 to 14 months old, they go to the Pilot Dogs campus for six months of specific intensive training. The dogs practice on the streets of Columbus. After that, the new owner comes to the Pilot Dogs campus for a month of training with their new guide dog.
David got his call to travel to the Pilot Dogs campus when baby William was only two months old. It was hard for him to be away from his new baby for the month-long training. When he returned, he wanted to spend time with the baby. Not knowing if little William would roll off the bed, he decided to lay down with him on the carpeted floor. It wasn’t long before Simon came in and lay down beside them and all three fell asleep. When Kate Furukawa saw this, she knew her baby would be safe with Simon. As time went by, it seemed that Simon understood that one of his duties in assisting David was to keep track of the little boy.
It is estimated that it costs more than $12,000 to train each dog and provide training and lodging for one month for a visually impaired person receiving a dog. The family is asking anyone who would like to make a donation of any kind to consider a donation in the memory of Simon to Pilot Dogs Inc., 625 West Town Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215, or donate online at
David and Simon went everywhere together. They could be seen walking around the East Atlanta Village, in Brownwood Park, to church, shopping, and visiting friends. One of David’s passions is history, being a living historian portraying a Civil War surgeon. Every year at the Battle of Atlanta encampment in East Atlanta or Kirkwood, he re-enacted a surgeon cleaning and bandaging the wounds of the soldiers. Simon was right there with him. The BATLevents organizers are putting together a plan to bring meals to the family through this difficult time.
David’s injuries will take some time to heal. His leg will be in a brace for several months. He will have to undergo physical therapy for his elbow, knee, and foot fractures. He wants to be able to walk on his own before beginning the process to apply for a new service dog. He is determined to walk Will to school and be walking around East Atlanta again soon.

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