Pets

Guide dogs, then blind owners, fall in love

Aug. 8, 2013 at 8:57 AM ET

Lady and the Tramp realized they were in love over a bowl of pasta. For Rodd and Venice, romance bloomed at a training course for seeing-eye dogs.

The guide dogs simply couldn’t get enough of each other during the intensive course in Shrewsbury, England in March 2012. Even when their visually impaired owners tried to keep them apart, Rodd and Venice would find each other, snuggle together under a table and give each other dog kisses.

Claire Johnson, 50, and Mark Gaffey, 52 fell in love soon after their dogs Rodd and Venice did. The couple are planning to get married next spring.
Chapman Bell / NBC News
Claire Johnson, 50, and Mark Gaffey, 52 fell in love soon after their dogs Rodd and Venice did. The couple are planning to get married next spring.

It turns out these dogs had a real nose for romance.

Mere months after Rodd and Venice fell prey to puppy love, so did their human owners, Claire Johnson, 50, and Mark Gaffey, 52. The couple are planning to get married next spring. Rodd and Venice will walk down the aisle with them wearing flowers in their harnesses. At the reception, the wedding cake will be adorned with bones and paw prints.

“It’s going to be as much their day as it is ours,” Gaffey said. “They're central to the whole thing because, at the end of the day, they brought us together.”

Loyal pals: Blind Labrador retriever helped by tiny terrier

The course where Gaffey and Johnson met involved nearly 14 hours of training a day for 12 days straight. The couple said the training program was so hectic that they gave no thought to romance at the time.

Gaffey and Johnson owe their love connection to their cute canines Rodd and Venice.
Chapman Bell / NBC
Gaffey and Johnson owe their love connection to their cute canines Rodd and Venice.

Once the course ended, Johnson and Gaffey still had weeks of training to complete with their dogs back at home. After they finally qualified to take their dogs on outings, the pair met up with Rodd and Venice for coffee. And then for another coffee. And then for lunch. And then for another lunch.

“The lunches started off at about an hour, and then I think our longest lunch was 3 hours 40 minutes,” Johnson recalled. “In fact, we nearly got chucked out of the bar!”

Gaffey and Johnson eventually made plans to have a nice dinner together at an Indian restaurant — just the two of them, with no love-struck dogs around. Before dinner, Gaffey sent a text message to Johnson: “If you’d let me, I could make your world a whole lot happier.”

Ever since that night, Johnson said, “It’s (been) history, basically!”

Claire Johnson is seen here with her blind guide dog.
Chapman Bell / NBC

Gaffey wound up proposing to Johnson in the most public of ways: On camera for the British ITV show “Me and My Guide Dog.”

“Now what did I say? ‘Would you do me the honor of being my wife?’” Gaffey recalled.

“Yes that’s what you said,” Johnson answered. “I said to him yes, on the condition that he wouldn’t change.”

Need a Coffey break? Connect with TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

TOP