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Blind Israeli veteran unstoppable, thanks to dog

Once accustomed to following commands, now veteran Gadi Yarkoni issues them. His unusual subordinate gave him his life back

Blinded Israeli veteran Gadi Yarkoni confidently marches forward with his Hebrew-trained guide dog Timmy by his side.
Blinded Israeli veteran Gadi Yarkoni confidently marches forward with his Hebrew-trained guide dog Timmy by his side.

As a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, nineteen-year-old Gadi Yarkoni spent his days serving his country and following orders.

Until misfortune fell.

During the Second Lebanon War, a bullet entered Gadi’s skull and severed his optic nerve. The injury blinded him for life.

Today, instead of taking orders Gadi gives them, using Hebrew commands like “kadima—forward” and “ladalet—go to the door.” A black Labrador retriever named Timmy responds eagerly.

Like many blinded young veterans, Gadi refused to succumb to a life of dependence and isolation after his injury. He didn’t want to wait around for other people to lead him where he needed to go. He craved freedom from the limited assistance of a white mobility cane.

That’s why he requested Timmy.

Timmy is one of more than 500 dogs trained by the Israel Guide Dog Center since it opened in 1991. He understands Hebrew commands, remains calm during warning sirens, and easily navigates Israel’s unique security and traffic environment. He was even bred for the size and temperament Gadi needed in a guide dog. Most importantly, Timmy put Gadi back in charge of his life.


As a competitive runner relatively new to the sport, Gadi is considered the fastest blind Israeli marathoner. He starts his day between 4 and 5 a.m. to squeeze in a run before getting his three boys ready for school.

Later, he heads to his job as a physical therapist, where he holds another impressive designation—the first blind Israeli to earn a physical therapy degree. While Gadi cares for all sorts of patients in his work, treating the sports injuries appeals most to the athlete in him.

Timmy has empowered Gadi to reclaim his role as a contributing member of society, and he’s given Gadi’s active young family confidence and freedom, knowing their husband and father is safe and self-reliant with Timmy by his side.

Before the Israel Guide Dog Center opened, happy endings like Gadi’s weren’t possible. Previously, a person had to travel to the US to obtain an English-trained guide dog that was unprepared to adapt to Israel’s landscape.

But thanks to the support of generous donors and people like you, the Israel Guide Dog Center makes dozens of matches like Gadi and Timmy every year.

Make a gift to help other blind Israelis, and learn how the Israel Guide Dog Center trains its dogs at