Blind Puppy-Mill Survivor Smiley Helps People with Special Needs

smiley golden retriever blind therapy dog

“Dogs can come back from anything. They forget their past,” Joanne George, dog mom to a 12-year-old Golden Retriever named Smiley, told CBS News. “We as humans, dwell on the past.”

The past that Smiley bounced back from included spending the first couple years of his life in a puppy mill. If that alone wasn’t bad enough, Smiley was born with dwarfism — and without eyes.

George, a dog trainer who lives in Stouffville, Canada, rescued Smiley when he was 2 years old.

“He was very scared,” she told ABC News. “[The dogs] had never been out of that barn.”

Smiley was very anxious about living in a home, George wrote on her Training the K9 Way website. “He cowered at the sound of another dog eating. The scars on his face and ears told me the stories of what it was like living with so many dogs in such deplorable conditions.”

Smiley soon bonded with George’s other dog, Tyler, a partially deaf Great Dane.

“Tyler was so bouncy and crazy and happy-go-lucky, and [Smiley] turned into the same dog,” George told ABC News. “He came out from underneath the tables where he was always hiding.”

As Smiley blossomed, George said she noticed the positive effect he had on people.

“People were so drawn to him, so inspired by him. I realized this dog has to be a therapy dog — I have to share him,” she told CBS News.

Smiley did just that. He and George joined the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program in Ontario. Smiley helps special-needs children learn to read through a library literacy program, and also works at funeral homes and nursing homes.

The employees of one nursing home had never seen a mute patient named Teddy express any emotion, until Smiley came along.

“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy], and he started smiling and making noise,” George told CBS News. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile — never seen any kind of reaction.”

Teddy is now the first patient Smiley visits whenever he goes to that nursing home.

“I think that’s when I realized how truly inspiring he can be,” George told CBS News.

Her advice for pet parents of blind dogs: “Don’t be his eyes, don’t run his life, don’t keep him in a bubble.”

Smiley is able to get around without much difficulty, George told ABC News. He raises his feet as he walks.

“He’s feeling with his feet,” she explained. “Does he bump into things? Of course he does. But he does it very carefully.”

(Silvie Bordeaux, dog mom of Muffin, a blind Toy Poodle, invented the ingenious Muffin’s Halo Guide for Blind Dogs, which provides padding and prevents dogs from bumping into things or falling down stairs, as Muffin once did.)

Smiley is now 12 years old and starting to slow down, but, George told CBS News, his “tail will never stop wagging.”

“The quote, ‘The dogs we really need are the ones that come to us,’ is very true in this case,” George told Head-Lites. “I am a better human being and mother because of him.”

Photo via Twitter

Laura Goldman

I am a freelance writer and lifelong dog lover. For five years, I was a staff writer for i Love Dogs. When that site shut down, I started this blog...because I STILL Love Dogs!