CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 14. . . . December 8, 2017
When Joanne George, a veterinary technician from Stouffville, ON, inspected a puppy mill on a wintry day in 2004, she found Smiley, an incredible puppy that would change her life. Puppy mills are factories where dogs are bred in harsh conditions to produce puppies for profit. The owners are only interested in making a profit, and, as a result, the animals are not treated properly. They live in cramped cages with minimal food and water. Temperatures can be blistering in summer and freezing in winter. Medical attention is non existent.
Smiley was rescued from the puppy mill, but no one wanted to adopt him because he was untrained and had special needs. Smiley was born without eyes. He also had a genetic condition called “dwarfism”. Dogs with this condition can have large heads, deformed jaws, crooked teeth and twisted or bowed legs. Joanne took Smiley home from the puppy mill hoping that she could find a home for him soon. After six months, it became apparent that no one wanted to adopt him, and Joanne realized that Smiley was her dog.
Smiley became part of Joanne’s family. After surgery to deal with his empty eye sockets, Smiley had a new look – a perpetual smile! His acute sense of hearing made him a wonderful companion, and Joanne often forgot that he could not see. Joanne also realized that Smiley’s unique talents could be used to help others in need. His remarkable ability to connect with people made him a great candidate to become a therapy dog. These dogs comfort people in emotional distress or isolation.
Smiley became part of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Program which began in 1992 in Peterborough, ON. Currently, there are more than 3000 dogs and their handlers working across Canada. Smiley brought comfort and joy to countless children, seniors and hospital patients. He became famous in his community. However, his social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram shared his story of “triumph over adversity” throughout the world. His appearances on television brought him to the attention of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Cesar Millan.
Smiley: A Journey of Love is an inspiring story for all ages. Joanne George’s prose is clear and concise. The six chapters of the book tell a story of determination, compassion and survival. The photographs and captions are seamlessly integrated into the storyline. There are numerous inspirational quotations throughout the text. Readers explore many important issues in this book: ability vs. disability, blindness, pets, therapy dogs, puppy mills, cruelty to animals, social media, and family relationships. There is also a very useful list of “Ways You Can Help” at the end of the book.
Since the publication of Smiley: A Journey of Love, Smiley had a long battle with cancer and was euthanized on October 14th, 2017. His indomitable spirit, however, lives on in the memories of those people whose lives he touched. Smiley’s remarkable life can be summed up in the words of Mark Twain, “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” (p. 41)
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.