Seeing-eye dog killed on Verona Caney Road

Friday, April 20, 2012
Photos submitted Ursa Mae Umsted, a black Labrador retriever, was the service dog for Lewisburg resident Michael Umsted until she was hit 12 days ago on Verona Caney Road.

From staff reports

A Lewisburg man who's relied on a seeing-eye dog lost his service dog, Ursa, a black Labrador retriever, when she was hit by a car or truck on Verona Caney Road.

Michael Umsted was scheduled to receive his service dog's ashes today. The Guiding Eyes for the Blind Foundation was in charge of arrangements for cremation by Companion Animal Hospital.

"When I die, I want her ashes put in the casket with me," Umsted said.

Umsted is legally blind and deaf because of Usher's Syndrome, a degenerative disease that eats away at his sight and hearing. He depended on Ursa for eight years.

She helped him keep his independence and mobility.

On April 10, Umsted was visiting a friend's home off Verona Caney Road. He walked Ursa along the property line to familiarize her with her limits. At 10:45 p.m., he let her out before bedtime. She didn't come back. He and his friends searched until 2:30 a.m. After dawn, Ursa was found dead on the side of the road a quarter mile a way.

Verona Caney Road has no shoulder. Ursa was a black dog. She'd been trained to walk on the road to protect "her human," Umsted said.

Ursa was born June 24, 2002. She died April 11, 2012.

Last month, The Guiding Eyes for the Blind Foundation, visited Umsted and Ursa saying it was time for her to retire. He could have kept Ursa, but the foundation "wanted to start working towards getting me another service dog to work and help me, letting Ursa live the rest of her life as a great big lap dog...

"No one expected that I would lose Ursa, but ... I am expecting to receive another service dog between August and December. I'm on a waiting list and they are taking steps to make it happen for me...

"Ursa has protected me and kept me safe all these years, and [when] she needed me... I could not save her. I know it is not my fault... but my heart is broken. I will never ever forget her for the rest of my life."