15:21, 11 March 2015
By Nicola Bartlett
Smiley, who was born without eyes, is a therapy dog who visits hospitals, schools and care homes
A golden retriever named “Smiley” is living up to his name as a therapy dog brightening up the days of patients and nursing home residents.
But Smiley did not have the happiest start in life.
The bouncy golden retriever, who was born without eyes, was rescued from a terrifying puppy mill where the dogs were trapped in a barn.
But the blind dog was rescued when he was about one or two years old by dog lover Joanne George and lives in Stouffville in Ontario, Canada.
She said: “He was very scared, [the dogs] had never been out of that barn.”
Traumatised by his experiences Smiley needed a bit of encouragement to come out of his shell.
But when Joanne paired him up with a deaf Great Dane named Tyler the pair became firm friends.
Joanne said: “Tyler was so bouncy and crazy and happy go lucky and [Smiley] turned into the same dog,”
“He came out from underneath the tables where he was always hiding.”
From then on Smiley became more and more confident and loved interacting with people.
Joanne realised his friendly personality would make him the perfect therapy dog.
She now brings the dogs to hospitals and schools in the small town of Stouffville, and says the dog almost always brightens people’s days.
At one nursing home she realised how even a small visit with Smiley could make people happy.
She told ABC News about a special resident Smiley was able to help.
Joanne said: “There was this man Teddy, [he had] no speech, no communication at all,”
“[The staff] had never seen Teddy smile before.”
But once Smiley came up to Teddy, Joanne said the staff was amazed. “[Teddy] smiled when Smiley got into his vision,”
Joanne said caring for Smiley for 10 years, has taught her how to give blind dogs the care they need.
She said: “Somebody through St. John’s Ambulance is wanting to adopt a dog that’s blind,”
“I told her all those things don’ t be his eyes, don’t run his life, don’t’ keep him in a bubble.”
She said it’s important for Smiley to figure out how to get around on his own and he usually manages without too much difficulty.
She said: “Does he bump into things? Of course, he does. But he does it very carefully.”
Smiley walks with particularly “high steps” which Joanne explains is the golden retriever’s way of “feeling with his feet”.