WEST CHESTER Jermaine was not trained as a guide dog for the visually impaired. But the pit bull has answered the call to service for a four-legged fellow in need - his blind brother, Jeffrey - and in the process has captured the hearts of millions.
This canine brotherly love story, with paws in Philadelphia and Chester County, became a Facebook sensation over the weekend.
Kimberly Cary, a volunteer with the Chester County SPCA, had posted pictures on Facebook late last week of the inseparable 8-month-old puppies. One shows Jermaine and Jeffrey in an adorable cuddle while they sleep.
"We have 3.2 million hits to that post over the last two days," Tom Hickey, a board member with the Chester County SPCA, said Sunday. "It has just touched the hearts of people all around the world."
Jeffrey is completely blind in at least one eye and can possibly see shadows in the other. To compensate, according to veterinarians, he leans on Jermaine and follows his brother around when they are in unfamiliar territory.
"These guys are bonded, and Jeffrey really is dependent on Jermaine at this point," said Ray Little, lifesaving director of Philadelphia's Operation Ava animal shelter. "When they are separated, they get really insecure."
Just a few weeks ago, the 35-pound strays were rescued from the streets of West Philadelphia and placed in Operation Ava's no-kill shelter on North Third Street, where they were named.
Today, they are a viral sensation on Facebook.
Even people from the United Kingdom, where pit bulls are banned, have expressed a desire to adopt Jermaine and Jeffrey, Little said.
"The amazing part of the story is the brother who is sighted," Hickey said. "He just taught himself how to be the seeing eye of his brother."
For all of the fascination and excitement over this tale of puppy love, no one as of Sunday afternoon had completed an application to adopt the brothers.
"I wish people realized that just because you've seen them doesn't mean they've been adopted," said Cary, 28, who posted the Facebook photos Thursday and Friday on the request of Operation Ava. "They still need somebody to come rescue them."
Jermaine and Jeffrey both had demodectic mange, a parasitic skin disease caused by microscopic mites, but they are "happy" and in "very good health now," Little said.
The dogs will be held indefinitely at Operation Ava until a qualified person comes forward with a willingness to adopt both for $275, Little said.
"They obviously have some sort of innate bond," said Emily Simmons, executive director of the Chester County SPCA, "and it will be wonderful to see them adopted together."
Anyone interested in adopting can contact Operation Ava at 215-240-1240.