Erik Bendl has been walking with his dog named "Nice" and a giant globe to raise money and awareness for diabetes since his mother died from it several years ago. But, their trip abruptly stopped in Pasco County when the dog just couldn't do it anymore.
"His knees both went out at the same time," said Bendl about his faithful companion Nice. "It's genetic, not because I walked him too much. It happens to dogs in between 3 years old and 7 years old."
Doctors at the University of Florida have already checked him out and said he needs what amounts to a double knee replacement for both of his rear legs. He'll be good as new, but the surgery will cost an arm and a leg.
Suzanne Kidder took the pair in under her and her co-worker's wings. She describes when she first saw them:
"The earth is blowing across Rt. 19 and it's this monstrous beach ball," she said.
Bendl may have the whole world in his hands, but not the personal funds needed to get his beloved pup back on track.
"Don't ever say you're gonna walk til the snow flies, it's not a good idea!," laughed Bendl about his cross-country treks. He has covered nearly every corner of the lower 48's, for months at a time.
"At the end of the day, we'll leave the ball where we get to, get a ride back to this van and bring the van up, leapfrog it every day, sort of a GPS, a good people system, where I just never know who that person's gonna be or how it's gonna work out and it always does," said Bendl cheerfully.
It's just him, his giant world and his big 6-year-old mixed-breed sidekick.
"It's much cuter with the dog!," he laughed as we walked along with his giant globe along Route 19 just below the Hernando County line.
The travelers met Kidder, who found them huddling under her office canopy in the rain.
"We invited him in, how could you not?" laughed Kidder, who likens this whole experience to good karma and paying it forward.
They stayed a couple days until the rain cleared.
"They walked from Spring Hill to the mall, which is about 12 miles," said Kidder. "Then the next day, walked from there to Tarpon Springs, and that's when he developed the limp."
Nice had developed knee problems; his ligaments are torn and the nearly 7 year-old bones are in need of repair.
Now, they need to come up with about $2,400 to get him into the hospital and about $1,000 more after that for continuous care.
Was it fate that led Bendl, his dog and giant globe there? And was it coincidence that her office walls are lined with original artwork of globes?
"All of it has the earth in it somewheres, our corporate logo is a blue and green globe," said Kidder. "I'm sensing a Twilight Zone moment," we laughed. "Well, we kind of sensed that too, it just was really bizarre!," she said.
The actual price of the surgery is much higher, but U of F is covering a big chunk of the cost. Bendl will stay with Nice at Kidder's Spring Hill office while the dog recuperates, which should take about three months.
You can read more about this pair here: www.worldguy.org
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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