Today’s post is in loving honor of Smiley, the blind therapy dog, who gave his heart and soul to hundreds of thousands of people, near and far. After many years of serving his community, his body overcome with tumors, his owner Joanne George let him go to rest, yesterday. A life of service his testimony for having been with us.
Smiley was born in a deplorable puppy mill with a dwarfism condition that caused both blindness and oversized teeth. He continued to live in that horrid place for two years, waiting for the right heart to open and give him his forever home. Then, Joanne rescued him. A vet sewed his eyes shut to prevent infection. Many say his oversized teeth gave him a perpetual smile, but I would venture to guess it was also the result of a heart full of love, life, and joy at having found, in Joanne, someone who loved him just as he was, with no conditions.
As a therapy dog, Smiley tended to children and adults with a host of difficult issues. Some children faced the death of loved ones and Smiley brought them smiles in the midst of profound grief. Other people, young and old, faced their own mental and physical disabilities and Smiley encouraged them to thrive and overcome. From hospitals, to care homes, to funerals, even on the streets with strangers, Smiley, the blind therapy dog, brought healing to others.
In an interview with Huffington Post in 2015, Joanne George, Smiley’s mom said, “No matter where a dog starts from or how broken they may seem; they’re not. If you let them, they can recover and then can do so much more. Just look at Smiley.” This quote moved me because I realized that the same can be said of people.
So many of us humans in this world face our own wounds, our own disabilities. Some are born with these setbacks. Others encounter them in the aftermath of accidents. No matter when they occur, they can leave one reeling with loss, anger, pain, thoughts of death, and frustration.
I know this, only because I suffer from my own disability. At the age of 10, I contracted the “Old Person’s” disease, rheumatoid arthritis. For years, I spent more time with doctors and physical therapists than I did with kids my age. And when I did get a chance to be with peers, many of them ridiculed me for my disease, calling me names, and making fun of my difficulties. Many times, I thought about how easier death would be rather than continuing to live with such horrible pain and suffering.
It was years before I could make a peace with my very different life. In fact, I remember the day quite well. I was in high school. I’d ridden my bike to the park and sat in the grass overlooking a lake, praying and wondering what in the world I could possibly accomplish with such a broken body and life. I had no one like Smiley to encourage me that I could still make a difference, not just despite my disease, but actually because of it.
It was there, in solitude, that I received my answer. God can do so much more with, in, and through someone who is broken than someone who is proud. The broken know they need other people, need help. They have a great sense of community, an incredible need to serve, and an even greater attitude of gratitude.
While the world revolves around money, big corporations, the famous, and the rich, in truth, humanity, and all of creation, for that matter, cannot survive without charity, kindness, and service.
What Joanne George, Smiley’s companion, said of dogs is absolutely true of people as well. If you’re one of those who suffer from some type of disease or disability, take courage. You have been blessed with a very special mission that only you could undertake: and that is encouraging others who are suffering. You have the enormous, awesome task of bringing hope to the hopeless, courage to those in fear, compassion to the devastated, love to those who have lost so much, and most importantly serving as a reminder to everyone of community, compassion, comfort, concern, and consideration.
If you are one of those caregivers tasked with powerful responsibility of tending to one with disease or disability, then take to heart that you are caring for an angel who can change the world for the better. And, please, be certain to provide them with interactions with souls, like Smiley, of similar situation who will come alongside them and aid them toward a greater understanding of the responsibility that they’ve received.
I rest assured that Smiley now waits at the bridge not only for Joanne, but for the countless lives he touched in his few short years that God loaned him to the world. Give love, live loved, and, now, go hug your dog. He’s waiting for you. His world revolves around you.
And sit down and think on this, internalize it. You can love from your heart, teach or make money from your intelligence, but it is from your scars that God chooses to bring healing to others. If you will let it, healing will flow from your wounds to encourage and enable the wounded. Some words from Joanne today, “In Smiley’s honour, please be kind to one another, give back, and always see with your heart. ❤”