Smiley The Blind Therapy Dog
Smiley is a completely blind fifteen year old gorgeous golden retriever who makes everyone he meets smile.
We first met Smiley and his Mom Joanne over 4 years ago with our friends at Dog Guru. Several members of the team actually cried with happiness as we took the photo above and filmed his beautiful trademark smile. There is something truly special about him, even beyond his soft coat, lovely face and gentle nature. The world smiles with him.
We have featured Smiley in our Talent Hounds one hour documentary and in the Dogs Make a Difference TV episode, and now we will now be featuring him in a new TV special about how Kids and Dogs go well together.
Smiley’s History- from Puppy Mill to Loving Family and Friends
Smiley was born in a puppy-mill, without eyes. He lived there for two miserable years before being adopted by his family thirteen years ago.
His Mom Joanne was working as a vet tech at the time. She was sent to the puppy-mill and she and her co-workers rescued Smiley. They tried to find him a home but no one wanted to adopt him. Joanne was convinced to care for him and decided to try to prove that blind dogs can do anything “normal” dogs can.
All dogs are born blind. For two weeks they rely on their mothers and their other senses as they start to see. Smiley’s eyes never developed so he never got sight which may have been a consequence of dwarfism which also affected his appearance. His closed eyes, wide mouth and large teeth make him look like he is grinning happily. He looks to Joanne for help, but also uses his other senses like smell, hearing and touch. Dogs have extraordinary senses of smell and great hearing, much better than humans.
Smiley had infections when he came to live with Joanne and had to undergo a few procedures to lessen the pain. For any dog, adapting to a new environment can be hard, especially if they grew up in a puppy mill. Training Smiley to life in his new home was a challenge at first, as he was used to such a limited life in a cage. Even things like a phone ringing and grass were new. He went to work with her at the veterinary clinic. He could not be left home alone, was afraid to ride in a car, and was very withdrawn. Under Joanne’s care, he gradually learned to overcome some of his fears. Joanne had another dog at the time, a Great Dane named Tyler, who helped a lot with Smiley’s transition and teaching.
Smiley has been at Joanne’s side for her key milestones like getting married and having her human son Shepherd. He has been the best friend, son and brother anyone could hope for.
Today his brothers, including older Border Collie Pip, boy Shepherd and most recently puppy Pal, have his back.
Our talented mutual friend Hero the Super Collie also has his back.
His newly adopted blind younger brother Pal is also blind. Joanne explained that they rescued Pal the puppy from Istanbul, sickly and without eyes, so they have been going through the challenges of a new home life again. They are learning how to best teach and socialize a dog with special needs as they did with Smiley. Smiley makes sure he’s cared for and not alone or lost.
We are very sad as Smiley is nearing the end of his journey – the vet just found masses on his stomach and liver. Our thoughts and love are with him and his family.
See Potential not Disabilities
Smiley does not let the fact that he is blind stop him from doing normal doggy things and more. Smiley never let his disability stand in his way and lives a very good active life. He runs and plays on their property and goes on lots of adventures with his family.
About a year ago, Joanne noticed that he’s also losing hearing a bit, and now he relies on Joanne a little bit more. Smiley still hears well with kids though, because kids have higher pitched voices.
Why Smiley Makes Such a Good Therapy Dog
We are big believers in the physical and mental benefits of Therapy Dogs. There is such strong evidence that looking at an patting a dog can increase feelings of well being and reduce stress. Smiley is a St. John Ambulance therapy dog and he also visits schools for anti-bullying programs. Joanne explained that therapy dogs must be good with socializing and must be able to interact with strangers and children. They must have good manners with anyone. Smiley visits with children as well as the elderly so the environments and energy levels are different.
Smiley helps the kids because he connects with them. He helps them understand that it’s OK to be different. He overcame challenges and they can as well, even if their challenge is something like doing math.
Joanne believes Smiley was bullied and bitten by other dogs at the Puppy Mill as he still has a few scars. Joanne says she tells the kids about Smiley’s scars and blindness and uses that to relate to bullying and human abilities or differences. He is a wonderful role model. He doesn’t judge and is there for them.
Smiley’s New Book
Smiley has a book coming out soon which is a collection of pictures and short stories about his life. Other merchandise like bobble heads and T-shirts are occasionally available too, with revenue used for Pal and Smiley’s vet bills and other expenses.
Follow Social Smiley
Smiley is extremely popular online. Smiley can be found on Instagram @smileytheblindtherapydog and Facebook at Smiley The Blind Therapy Dog. The many pictures posted and shared are a nice collection of all that he has overcome and done for others.