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Deputy Who Lost Sight Gets Help From Local Dog

Hembree, Sampson Meet In Columbus

POSTED: 4:17 pm EDT July 14, 2004
UPDATED: 10:33 pm EDT July 14, 2004

An Alabama deputy who lost his eyesight can walk thanks to a new friend he found in Columbus, NewsChannel 4's Monique Ming Laven reported.

Last November, a woman whose boyfriend was pulled over for suspected drunken driving allegedly aimed her car at Tuscaloosa, Ala., Deputy Cliff Hembree (pictured, right) and hit him.

"I broke all the bones around (my) eye, left shoulder, all ribs, left knee, (and) lost 31 liters of blood," Hembree said.

Hembree spent a month in a coma. Many surgeries, therapy sessions and tears later, he made a long trip to pick up his new best friend who he may never actually see. Hembree is now blind, but he arrived in Columbus this week to find Sampson, his new guide dog.

SLIDESHOW: Cliff Hembree And Sampson

Sampson is now learning to guide Hembree, whose sheriff in Tuscaloosa used to work for Franklin County.

"It's been a wonderful experience learning the techniques," Hembree said. "There's a lot to learn."

Hembree used to be an avid runner. Now, he and Sampson must learn to take every journey step by step -- with occasional distractions.

"He loves women, and he goes crazy over some of the women here," Hembree said.

Hembree said the 600-mile trip to Columbus was worth it, and with Sampson's help he'd like to prepare for a 26-mile journey.

"I want to run a marathon with my sheriff," Hembree said. "I tell him I want to run one."



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