Blind World Magazine

The Miracle on 39 North Street.

December 22, 2005., Canada.

Fred Crittenden is calling it "The Miracle on 39 North Street", referring to his favourite Christmas movie, Miracle on 34th Street.

And, as it turned out, yes, Fred, there is a Santa Claus.

Mr. Crittenden, who is blind, was at a loss last month when his guide dog, Eclipse, was crippled by a serious injury to the ligament in his knee. Mr. Crittenden had spent his money and exhausted funding from several support agencies to pay for Eclipse's last operation to the other knee last June.

Local veterinarians couldn't guarantee the success of the operation and said Eclipse would likely walk with a limp. He was referred to a specialist in Oakville who said he would do the operation.

Mr. Crittenden, a familiar sight with six-year-old Eclipse on the streets of Sutton, was forced to rely on his white cane to get around -- a hazardous situation that saw him almost run over and later losing his bearings, ending up in another part of the village.

"It's even tougher when there's snow on the ground," he said. "Sometimes you just don't know where you are."

On a fixed income, he was getting ready to put the approximate $2,500 it would cost for the latest operation on his Mastercard. "It probably would have taken a few years for me to pay it off, but this is my baby. He's a member of my family," he said, scratching behind the ears of the affectionate black lab.

"Then one day I got a phone call from this lady, she says there is this man who wants you to give him a ding, so I did. He said to me 'Fred I heard you have a problem' and I told him about the injury and he said 'How much is that going to cost?' and I told him about $2,500."

The man who wanted to remain anonymous, is known only as Doug. "Would the $2,500 cover it?" he asked Fred, who responded, "Sure." Doug asked for Mr. Crittenden's bank information. "Then he said 'The money will be there in 15 minutes'. I said 'Pardon me?'. I don't even know this man. He just said 'I've seen you and Eclipse in the restaurant a few times. My wife and I just marvel at the way you two work together'. I was starting to get choked up because I was all stressed out wondering where I was going to get this money." At that point it was either retirement for Eclipse or have the operation. "I said no, I'm not doing that. He's got four or five good years left in him," Mr. Crittenden said.

The man wasn't done yet. "I want you to have a good Christmas," he told Fred, "I'm putting another $500 in so you can."

Fred went to his local bank branch. "There was three grand sitting there. It just brought tears to my eyes." Later that same day another friend came in with some medication and a big bag of dog treats for Eclipse. "She said 'Merry Christmas and oh, by the way, I just paid your vet bill'. It was $259. This all happened in one day!" he said.

Eclipse is doing just fine now, Mr. Crittenden said. He is putting on weight and just got his stitches out. With the new knee ligaments "He's a bionic dog," he said laughing. Soon, he'll be ready for harness and back to leading his master safely around the streets of Sutton. "I'll be so happy to have him back just before Christmas. It really is a miracle

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