Born with dwarfism, and without eyes, a golden retriever named Smiley is bringing comfort and joy to hospital patients, school students and nursing home residents in the small town of Stouffville, Canada.
Rescued from a puppy mill when he was one or two years old, Smiley was timid at first, said his owner, Joanne George.
“He was very scared,” she recalled. “[The dogs] had never been out of that barn.”
But as he came out of his shell, she saw that he had a personality worth sharing:
“People were so drawn to him, so inspired by him.” George told CBS News. “I realized this dog has to be a therapy dog — I have to share him.”
Smiley joined the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program and, now 12 years old, still spends several hours a day dropping in on patients at retirement homes, visiting with special needs children in a library reading program and comforting patients at nursing homes near Stouffville.
George said when she first brought him home Smiley quickly bonded with another one of her dogs, a deaf Great Dane named Tyler.
“Tyler was so bouncy and crazy and happy go lucky and [Smiley] turned into the same dog,” George said. “He came out from underneath the tables where he was always hiding.”
“Dogs can come back from anything, they forget their past,” George said. “We as humans dwell on the past.”
One of Smiley’s favorite people to visit is a man named Teddy, who lives in a nursing home and, up until he met the dog, hadn’t uttered a sound.
“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy] and he started smiling and making noise,” George said. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile — never seen any kind of reaction.”
Now every time Smiley visits the nursing home, Teddy is the first person he sees.
After caring for Smiley for 10 years, George says she has learned a lot about how to care for blind dogs: “Don’ t be his eyes, don’t run his life, don’t’ keep him in a bubble … Does he bump into things? Of course, he does. But he does it very carefully.”
George said Smiley changed her life — and was there for many memorable moments. “He came on my first date with me. He was my ring bearer at my wedding.” He has also brightened up the lives of hundreds more.
Even now, as he nears the end of his, she says — his fur getting whiter, his steps slower — his “tail will never stop wagging.”
(Photo: Joanne George’s Facebook page)
Posted: March 12th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blind, blindness, canada, disabilities, dog, dogs, dwarf, dwarfism, golden retriever, pets, retriever, smiley, st. john ambulance, Stouffville, therapy dogs