When Rhodesian ridgeback Samson was born without eyes, no one expected the puppy to live to adulthood.
And when mixed-breed Ayah came down with a lethal virus shortly after being rescued last year, her carers expected it would be a death sentence.
But not only have the two dogs pulled through, they have formed what appears to be an unbreakable bond.
Rare illness left newborn pup blinded
Born in Kalgoorlie last year, Samson suffers from a rare condition – congenital bilateral anophthalmia – that resulted in him being born without eyeballs.
He quickly began suffering from infections, but a crowdfunding campaign eventually raised the money for a life-saving operation to surgically close his eyes.
Local trainer and volunteer Leah Hannam met him shortly after he was born.
“You just wanted to cry when you looked at him,” Ms Hannam said.
“He’s a goofball. He’s just beautiful.”
Recovering puppies became inseparable friends
While Samson is as energetic as you would expect a young dog to be, his blindness makes him naturally cautious.
That is where his relationship with Ayah comes in.
Known colloquially as a ‘Kalgoorlie special’, Ayah, a mix of breeds, was a rescued stray.
A diagnosis with the lethal parvovirus threatened her life at an early age, but it also introduced her to Samson.
“They couldn’t contact each other because of Ayah’s risk to Samson,” Ms Hannam said.
“But during their recovery they started sleeping in the kennel together and just became inseparable.”
Ayah, whose name means miracle in Arabic, now acts as an effective guide for Samson.
“She barks to let him know where she is. She’s like the Marco to his Polo,” Ms Hannam said.
“He’s not totally dependent on her, but she encourages him to venture on his own more than he normally would.”
Dogs now looking for a new home
After a recent trial adoption for Samson and Ayah fell through, the pair are now looking for a new “forever home”.
The community of Kalgoorlie-Boulder animal rescue volunteers who have supported both dogs now hope they can be re-homed together.
“She’s kind of like his little encourager … we don’t often see a very intimate bond,” Ms Hannam said.
“We want them to stay together because of the bond they’ve created.”
She said Samson was beautifully natured and ready and willing to be trained – he was just a little bit clumsy due to his lack of vision.
“Training a blind dog is just like training a sighted dog, just with more noise,” Ms Hannam said.
“Basically, he needs a home where people are going to be patient and consistent.”