Blind man reunited with missing service dog

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. --  When Michael Birenbaum’s German Shepherd Levi went missing on New Year’s Eve, he was devastated.

“He’s like my child. That’s the way I look at him because he means the world to me,” Birenbaum said.
Birenbaum was outside with Levi celebrating on New Year’s Eve when fireworks spooked the dog and he ran away.
Birenbaum relies on Levi as a service dog. He is legally blind after a childhood accident.
“I lost my sight when I was 11 due to a gunshot wound to the head,” he said. “My little five year old brother accidentally shot me.”
The Apache Junction resident and massage therapist lives an independent life, but relies on the German Shepherd.
“He helps me travel everywhere, avoid dangerous areas, or helps me if cars don’t see me,” said Birenbaum.
He said he felt lost without his dog, but Levi never made it more than a few blocks.
Nikki Meza was at a New Year’s Eve party just a few streets away from Birenbaum’s home.
“We just see this dog come out from behind the cars out of nowhere,” Meza said.
She checked the tags on Levi’s collar and noticed that he was a guide dog.
“When I saw his tags…you could see he was an important dog,” she said. “Somebody is worried sick about him and needs him.”
Meza called the 1-800 telephone number listed on Levi’s tag, which connected her to a guide dog organization based in Michigan on New Year’s Day. The company was closed for the holiday, but Meza persisted and called back first thing Wednesday morning.
“They answered and that’s how I was able to find Michael,” she said.
Wednesday afternoon, Meza pulled up in her pickup truck to Birenbaum’s house, and Levi ran straight into his arms.
A tearful Birenbaum told Meza, “This means the world to me. You brought my world back.”