Meet the kindest Golden Retriever on the Internet – Smiley the Blind Therapy Dog! This social media star is owned by Joanne George and he has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, all keen to keep up with Smiley’s work and adventures.
Like many of the social media pet superstars, Smiley’s beginnings were not promising. Joanne was working as a vet tech at the time, and the practice investigated a puppy mill (basically, a puppy farm). The owner wanted the dogs with health concerns to be euthanised, but the vet practice rescued all of them.
Smiley was one of those dogs. Joanne hadn’t wanted to take him at first because she was worried the dog she had already – a Great Dane called Tyler – would frighten Smiley. As it turned out, this was not the case. Tyler and Smiley became great friends. Tyler is an albino, which often scared off other dogs. As Smiley couldn’t see him, he wasn’t scared at all.
Joanne found that when she took her dog out and about on walks, people would stop her to talk about him. When one woman told her that the thought of Smiley cheered her up and had kept her going through a tough time, Joanne realised that Smiley was very special indeed and that she wanted other people to benefit from his lovely nature.
Joanne contacted the charity St John Ambulance who run therapy dog sessions for vulnerable members of the community. They take dogs to senior homes, shelters and group homes. Joanne found that Smiley’s blindness was an asset, especially for adults with physical disabilities. Sometimes physical disabilities mean people move jerkily, but as a blind dog Smiley couldn’t see this. Often vulnerable people are lacking physical affection, but when Smiley licks and nuzzles them, they feel the affection and they light up.
Joanne also takes Smiley to classrooms – often ones with special needs children. When she tells them about Smiley, this helps to start discussions about differences and bullying, as well as abilities. As Joanne says, Smiley had learned to do just about everything despite his blindness. For instance, he learned how to swim by using his instincts and he loves swimming.
Joanne loves the fact that her therapy dog has so many followers on social media. She gets letters and emails from people all over the world, telling her that Smiley has given them a reason to smile. That, she says, is like giving therapy too. People don’t even have to be in the same place as him.
You can follow Smiley on social media: