Smiley the Golden Retriever faced a death sentence at just two years old when Joanne George, his current pup parent, rescued him from a puppy mill in 2004. Born with a specific type of dwarfism and no eyes, his once-split ears, facial wounds, and all-around fearfulness made it difficult for George to find him a furever home. As fate would have it, George realized Smiley functioned best at home with her and her bouncy goofball of a Great Dane, whose boisterous energy soon rubbed off.
Since then, a now twelve-year-old Smiley’s inherently happy-go-lucky nature prompted George to set him on a very specific career path: “People were so drawn to him,” she told CBS News, “so inspired by him,” that the only logical thing to do was make this happy boy a therapy dog and spread the joy–and the doggie kisses, and belly rubs, and ear scratches, and, well, you get the point. His oversized chompers and empty eye sockets, too–which have been sewn shut to prevent infection–left him with something of a smile that continues to make the hearts of many grow three sizes too large.
George immediately certified Smiley as a therapy dog for the St. John Ambulance Therapy Program in the York Region of Ontario, a first-aid training organization. A typical work day for this pup might consist of visits to retirement homes, reading with children with autism at the local library, popping into classrooms to keep company with some little hoomans with special needs, and generally lifting the spirits of everyone he meets.
Take one experience Smiley had at a nursing home, where he surprised everyone with his particularly magical effect on one resident. Teddy, a man who never spoke and seemed otherwise unable to communicate, made Smiley especially persistent in cheering him up.
“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy] and he started smiling and making noise,” says George. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile–never seen any kind of reaction.”
Miracles do happen, especially if Smiley has anything to say about it! And if his story has any impact, George hopes that it will help to change people’s perception of shelter dogs. Whether blind, deaf, maybe missing a leg or two, or even just generally fearful (shelters are stressful places!), all homeless pups deserve the chance to recover.
Who knows, the age-old “who rescued who?” bumper sticker may have a point–any dog has the potential to change the lives they touch. Take a look at Smiley, and just try not to smile back.
Featured image via CBS News