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 by John Woestendiek 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
We won’t be so anthropomorphic as to insist what you’re watching above is a “tender moment” between two species.
(But we will — privately — feel all warm inside and silently go “awwwwwwww.”)
This seal flopped his way up to a yellow Labrador on a beach in southwestern France and seemingly embraced him — as much as one with flippers can embrace.
The dog, meanwhile, took it all in stride.
The video was shot at Le Cap Ferret and uploaded earlier this month by YouTube user Elise Frebourg.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 22nd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, beach, dog, dog and seal, dog and seal video, dogs, embrace, france, friends, hug, interspecies, labrador, pets, retriever, seal, seal and dog, seal and dog video, seals, species, unlikely friends, video, yellow lab
The Rev. Arlene M. Tully jokes that there are some similarities between her dog and members of her congregation.
“He sleeps through my sermons like everyone else,” the Methodist minister said.
But there is someone that Kirby — the golden-lab retriever mix who is almost always at her side — reminds her of even more:
“Kirby is a living, breathing metaphor for God’s love,” she told the Bangor Daily News. “The way he expresses love is as unconditional as God’s love. He instantly and fully embraces every person that he meets and that is a more accurate metaphor for God’s love than human love.”
Kirby the Ministry Dog attends services at First United Methodist Church in Bangor, Maine. He’s present for church dinners and other functions. He accompanies her on home visits, and trips to nursing homes and hospitals. And everywhere they go together, she notes, Kirby has a way of connecting with people, and getting them to open up.
“He’s a catalyst for those kinds of conversations,” said Tully,
The 2½ -year-old dog was trained as a service dog by Canine Companions for Independence at its campus in Medford, New York.
If Tully tells him to “visit,” Kirby will put his head in the lap of a person. If she says “lap,” he’ll gently place his paw on the leg of the person he’s visiting. When she say’s “push,” he’ll open an automatic door by pushing the button.
Tully, 57, became the church’s pastor in July. While she grew up a Roman Catholic, she left the church as a college student. She worked in restaurant management for 25 years before attending Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton Centre, Massachusetts.
Kirby, her second “ministry dog,” came to live with Tully in February while she was pastor of Pleasant Street United Methodist Church in Waterville, and he’s been helping her reach out to people ever since.
“Together, we have an instant bridge to people that I alone might not have otherwise,” she said.
(Photo: Ashley L. Conti / Bangor Daily News)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 30th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bangor, church, dog, dogs, god, kirby, maine, methodist, minister, ministry dog, pets, religion, retriever
Not every yellow Lab loves the water.
But those that do tend to do so with that kind of all-out, make-the-most-of-the-moment glee that dogs so often display (and we humans could learn from).
This video — made with a Go Pro camera strapped to his back — shows Walter barreling own a path to the Ionian Sea in Sicily, from the moment he is unleashed until he takes his plunge, narrowly missing taking a few humans in with him.
I try to refrain from ascribing emotions to dogs — not because I don’t think they have any, but because we mere humans never really know what’s in their heads and hearts.
In this case, though, I think it’s safe to say Walter likes the sea.
It’s also safe to say people like watching Walter’s mad dash: It garnered nearly 3 million views in its first three days on YouTube.
Today is my birthday, and here’s my birthday resolution: Be more like Walter.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 5th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, camera, dog, dogs, go pro, ionian sea, italy, lab, labrador, labrador retriever, pets, retriever, running, sea, sicily, video, walter, yellow, yellow lab
When a friend had to put her dog down a week ago, Houston photographer Robyn Arouty joined her to provide some moral support, and to document Duke’s bittersweet last day with her camera.
Arouty, who is also an animal rescuer and advocate, joined her friend Jordan Roberts on July 7 as she let Duke feast on hamburgers and visit a water park before he received a lethal injection — all while surrounded by friends.
Duke, a black Lab, was diagnosed a few years ago with osteosarcoma, a cancerous bone tumor, and had his right front leg removed. The cancer came back, though, and was spreading.
“His tumor was growing rapidly and we were out of options,” Roberts said. “He would rally during the day, but his nights were increasingly uncomfortable as his tumor started to separate his ribs. We struggled with the decision to let Dukey go, but ultimately did everything in our power to protect him from further pain.”
She made an appointment with a vet to have him euthanized on Monday, July 7. Then she called Arouty, who had taken photos for her before. She told her about her plans for Duke’s last day and asked her to photograph it.
Arouty’s photos show Duke and friends eating hamburgers in the morning, visiting a water park, and cuddling with friends.
Along with the photos, Arouty told the story of Duke (narrated from his point of view) on her blog . (Note: At the time of this writing, it was having some technical difficulties.)
“Jordan let me know she had scheduled the appointment with the vet and the words just came,” Arouty told KSL.com. “See, I have lost three of my own dogs in the past year and a half.”
“With the help from our friends, Dukey had a beautiful day filled with love and happiness,” his owner said. “We should all be so lucky.”
(Photos: From Robyn Arouty’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 15th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, black, cancer, death, dog, dogs, duke, dukes last day, euthanasia, euthanized, jordan roberts, lab, labrador, last day, loss, osteosarcoma, pets, photographer, photography, photos, put down, retriever, robyn arouty
Here’s one 7th grader we’re pretty sure didn’t complain about his yearbook photo.
Taxi, a Lab mix, is pictured right next to Rachel Benke. He’s her service dog, and he’s trained to alert her and school staff when he senses a seizure is coming.
The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio decided Taxi deserved a spot in the middle school year book.
A golden retriever-Labrador mix, Taxi was being trained to be a guide dog, but he failed to graduate due to a tendency to chase cats, KMTV reported.
Instead he ended up with Rachel, who has suffered from epileptic seizures since birth.
Her mother, Theresa, says the dog accompanies her daughter everywhere, and that Rachel’s life completely turned around after meeting Taxi four years ago.
Last year the family joked that Taxi should get his picture in the yearbook too. This year the school made it happen, with Rachel and Taxi appearing in the yearbook as they appear almost all the time — side by side.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 9th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, dog, golden, lab, middle school, mis, northside independent school district, pets, photo, rachel benke, retriever, san antonio, students, taxi, taxi benke, yearbook
The story of Marshall — an abused, bullied and neglected yellow Labrador who was rescued from an animal hoarder — is on its way to becoming a movie.
Shooting began this week in Edwardsville, Illinois, according to NewsChannel 5 (KDSK in St. Louis), which has been following Marshall’s story for four years.
Marshall was one of about 60 animals rescued from an animal hoarder by the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis.
He arrived there with a hole in his cheek, a leg so mangled it had to be amputated and other serious injuries.
Vets say is heart stopped three times on the operating table.
Humane Society officials credited his survival to his strong will to live, and they dubbed him the miracle dog.
Cynthia Willenbrock adopted Marshall, and wrote a children’s book about how he triumphed over the tragedies that confronted him.
The movie is based on that book, “Marshall the Miracle Dog.”
“It’s about that whole message of kindness to animals, kindness to each other, kindness in general,” said Willenbrock.
The movie, being shot mostly in Illinois, stars Shannon Elizabeth.
“I read the script and I fell in love. I was crying all through the script,” said the actress.
It also stars Max, a 1-year-old Lab playing the role of Marshall.
In addition to the book and movie, a school curriculum has been designed based on Marshall’s story, aimed at empowering high school juniors and seniors to serve as mentors to middle school and elementary students, passing along Marshall’s “five cornerstones” — empathy, strength, courage, kindness, and forgiveness.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, childrens book, dog, dogs, filming, hoarder, humane society, illinois, labrador, marshall, marshall the miracle dog, miracle, miracle dog, missouri, movie, pets, rescue, retriever, yellow lab