Smiley, a blind Golden Retriever, was actually born without eyes. After overcoming the horrible situation he was in as a puppy, Smiley is now living up to his name and fulfilling his duties as a service dog.
Smiley’s owner, Joanne George, rescued him from a puppy mill when he was between the ages of 1 and 2-years-old. Smiley was nervous at first. He had never been out of the barn at the puppy mill, but he bonded quickly with one of George’s other dogs Tyler, a deaf Great Dane.
Smiley’s owner noticed him taking on Tyler’s fun-loving, energetic personality once the two started to bond, and Smiley slowly started becoming more social. Once he started interacting with crowds, Georgnew at once that Smiley was born to be a service dog.
Once, during a trip to a nursing home, George realized just how important the attention of a dog is and how much it could do for the residents there. In her interview with ABC News, she recalls a man that had no speech and didn’t communicate with his caregivers or other residents at all. In fact, the staff had never even seen him smile until Smiley came in for a visit.
Amazingly, Smiley is able to fulfill his duties as a service dog working for St. John’s Ambulance in Stouffville, Canada. Now his owner brings him to schools, nursing homes, and hospitals around their community to visit with children and patients and brighten their days. George says she’s learned a lot about caring for dogs and how to treat disabled dogs with respect, much like you would a human in the same situation.
Taking on all the responsibilities of a blind dog certainly isn’t for everyone, but George was up for the challenge. She knew it would be a struggle, for both of them, to find a training method that worked, but she was pleasantly surprised at how well Smiley took to recognizing and following her voice.
George has always been adamant that Smiley learn on his own. She never wanted to be his eyes; instead she wanted him to figure out how to cope with the world using his other senses. She says he still bumps into things, of course, but he gets around very well on his own.