Justin Chan, a senior majoring in accounting and finance, walks everywhere.
He walks around campus, between the College of Business building, where most of his accounting and finance classes are held, and the tutoring center in the Library, where he works. He then walks home, crossing 50th Street, to his apartment at On50.
And everywhere Chan goes, his golden retriever, Edric, or Eddie, walks with him.
Chan is blind and Edric, his guide dog, leads him wherever he needs to go.
On Oct. 29, around 9 a.m., Chan was headed to campus to catch a Bull Runner shuttle to class.
Chan said he followed his regular routine when crossing 50th Street at the crosswalk waiting until he heard all the cars pass, then waiting for Edric to proceed when he knew it was safe.
But when Chan and Edric were halfway across the street, Edric was struck in the shoulder by a truck and thrown about 15 feet.
Chan was walking closely to Edric, but he was not hit. Edric suffered injuries to his left hind leg, a collapsed lung and a few broken teeth.
I was a little bit in shock, Chan said. I think Eddie was confused and scared or something.
Chan was diagnosed with leukemia when he was eight years old and underwent cancer treatment at All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg in 1999. The treatment was successful, but not all of the side effects were beneficial for Chan he had a hemorrhage in his brain, which allowed blood to get into his eye cavity and left him partially blind.
Chan and Edric were first paired together in 2011, whe the two of them graduated from The Seeing Eye, an
organization that trains guide dogs, based in Morristown, NJ. Before Edric, Chan used a cane to get around.
Daniel McInerney, who graduated over the summer with a degree in accounting, has lived with Chan for three years and remembers Chans transition from using his cane to having Edric.
Since (Chan) switched to Eddie, he has become pretty much dependent on him, McInerney said. Thats his mode of transportation. Thats his life right there (Edric is) definitely essential to him… Hes mostly
obedient when hes at home, and hes the quietest dog Ive ever lived with. He finds (Chan) new friends all the time hes quite the ladies dog.
On the day of the accident, McInerney was at work when he received a text from Chan at the veterinarians office to let him know what had happened.
It (was) very rough, McInerney said.
Two weeks after the accident, Edric is still recovering, and Chan has not been able to rely on Edric to guide him the past couple of weeks. Instead, Chan has used his cane.
Im used to having him attached to my left side, Chan said. My cane only does so much.
After the initial visit the day of the accident, Edric has to returned to the veterinarian once and will return again for a check-up next week to possibly have his broken teeth pulled, Chan said.
The truck driver that struck Edric covered $250 of the initial veterinarian bills, but Chan spent another $280 and still owes around $600, he said. He said he is putting in a claim to the drivers automobile insurance company, though Edrics injuries are considered property damage to the company.
Chan also attempted to file a police report after the incident, but said he was told by a Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office deputy who was dispatched that he couldnt because he had already left the scene and it was considered property damage.
Hillsborough County pretty much told me they couldnt do anything because it was property damage, Chan said. Its a service animal. Hes attached to a person; hes not just a dog.
Chan also contacted The Seeing Eye after the accident in case there were permanent issues with Edric that would force him to retire.
Though it is rare for a guide dog to be struck by a car, Craig Garretson, communications manager at The Seeing Eye, said it is similar to a pedestrian being stuck.
Sometimes the dog, the same way a person (would) if they were hit, might be really antsy, he said. If Justin requested us to do something (or) if the dog was uncomfortable, we could send an instructor down to Florida.
Sometimes dogs become uncomfortable or scared of streets or cars after such an incident, at which point an instructor would work with the dog, attempting behavior modification to see if there was anything they could do, Garretson said.
After Edrics accident, Chan said he doesnt feel comfortable crossing 50th Street anymore.
The intersection at Holly Drive and 50th Street is a popular one for students, but has been a safety concern among them.
Many students who live at On50 and Urban Place apartments cross this street to get to campus or to catch the Bull Runner.
In 2011, pedestrian crossing signs and a crosswalk were installed, but it remains a place of heavy traffic.
I used to feel safe, but not anymore, Chan said. I havent crossed that street with (Edric) again. Ill take the inefficient way instead.
Chan has not worked Edric very hard yet, as he is allowing him to recover from his injuries before he lets him be his guide again, he said.
Chan said he wouldnt know what he would do without his dog.
I just want to make sure hes safe, he said. Hes a good boy, hes a good dog.