I adopted Smiley on March 21, 2018, and my life has been changed forever. This handsome boy has become my best friend, my smiling companion, my partner in crime, and the source of infinite happiness in my life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always this good for Smiley. Smiley came to me on Valentine’s Day 2018, hand-delivered by his foster mom Kathy Marks. He was wearing red glittered heart teenyboppers on his head as he walked down the sidewalk to meet me. He was damaged both physically and mentally, but the glittering hearts foretold our soon to be fabulous future together.
Smiley was to become the first (but most special) of many foster animals to come into my life. I was a new volunteer for an (another) rescue group hoping to make the world a little bit better for homeless animals. I lived in a tiny apartment that would not allow me to own a dog, but I worked for an Internet company that permitted its employees to bring their dogs to work. Although I couldn’t own a dog, I could at least help out with someone else’s dog.
Enter Kathy and Smiley. Kathy had only been fostering Smiley for a few days when she noticed that whenever she left him alone, he would panic and get destructive. She asked me if I would help her by taking Smiley to work with me during the day and returning him to her in the evening. I agreed to try this since committing to a dog by just taking it to work seemed like an ideal situation. Smiley would have a fun place to go during the day, I would have the companionship of a dog, and Kathy would not have to worry about leaving Smiley alone at her house. A seemingly winning situation for everyone!
When Smiley and I first met, he was a wreck, an absolute basket case of a dog. He would pee all over himself and me whenever he got scared or too happy. He cringed at strange noises and people and cried and howled when he was left alone. Not exactly an ideal dog for someone. Not yet, anyway.
As hard as it could be to imagine, I would have to say that Smiley was “lucky” to have ended up at the Oakland Animal Shelter. His owners had moved and abandoned him and another dog in their backyard, tied to a tree. The other dog soon died of exposure, but somehow Smiley (who has proven to be incredibly strong-willed) survived for almost two weeks without food, water, or shelter. He was reportedly seen feeding on the dead dog that lay tied down next to him to survive. Smiley was lucky to be alive.
When he first entered the shelter, Smiley was covered with bruises, probably from being beaten. He was starving and emaciated and terrified and mistrusting of everyone. For some odd reason, the shelter staff fell in love with this scared boy, and instead of euthanizing him when his stray period was up, they cared for his medical condition and in time, put him up for adoption. Someone mentioned Smiley to Kathy, a committed rescue volunteer, and she began spending time with him, trying to bring him out of his shell and back into the world around him. By working with him almost daily, she hoped to make him more adoptable. One day, Smiley spotted a ball in the shelter yard and ran to fetch it. He brought it back for her to throw! She threw it, and again Smiley carried and returned it to her. Kathy later told me that that day, the way she saw his face light up with the ball in his mouth, she knew that she would do anything to get Smiley out of the shelter. She went on a mission to make sure that his life would be spared! In late January, when no one saw much hope for Smiley to be adopted, he was scheduled for euthanasia. When Kathy heard about this, she immediately bailed him out and committed herself as his foster mom. She dubbed him “Smiley” because of the way he bared his teeth when he became excited.
After only a few days with Smiley at my workplace, we became bonded. I began sneaking him into my apartment at night instead of bringing him back to Kathy. Eventually, my landlord found out that I was harboring a dog in my apartment at night, but when I explained the circumstances, he agreed to let me keep Smiley as long as I never left him at home alone. I committed myself to building Smiley’s confidence, teaching him how to play like a dog, and providing him with some basic obedience training. The ultimate goal was to make him more adoptable, for someone else. After just a few short weeks, it seemed that Smiley was ready to go, and we actively pursued a loving forever home for him.
Soon a seemingly perfect home came along. Two adults (one who was home all day) and a kid who had the time and love that Smiley so desperately needed. When the adoption papers were signed, and Smiley drove away with his new family, I cried tears of joy and sadness. In some ways, I think I was experiencing my separation anxiety, so I went to the animal shelter and found a dog to foster.
A week or so after he left, I got a call from Smiley’s new family. They left a message on my answering machine saying that things weren’t working out with Smiley, that he was becoming “overprotective,” and they were becoming afraid of him. They said that they were going to return him to the rescue group. I was shocked to hear this news yet in some strange way excited to hear that my buddy Smiley was coming back home!
When he returned, Smiley was a wreck. Cringing and submissive peeing, he was almost worse than he was when I first met him. The first night back, he hid underneath the computer and would not come out to eat or sleep. In a matter of days, however, he began to settle down and bond with me again. That’s when Smiley and I made a pact. We would stay together forever, never again would I give him up. I set out to find a place to live where I could have a dog. I moved my entire life in 3 days. I adopted Smiley as my forever dog. Smiley and I now live in Oakland, CA, with our cat Blaze and a parade of other foster animals that all eventually find loving homes.
Smiley Dog Rescue
Was founded in April of 2018 and named in honor of my dog Smiley. It is a rescue group founded to help dogs (like and unlike Smiley) find their way into loving and committed homes. Animal shelters in this country are filled with dogs, perfect and not so perfect. These dogs have often been betrayed by their owners and never given a second chance at life. Never allowed to love and be loved. Most shelters have a high rate of euthanasia because of overcrowding and the constant demand for space (too many people treat their animals like expendable commodities; when they aren’t wanted anymore, they are cast away). There are so many deserving dogs like Smiley who sit in shelters day after day and wait for someone to take them home forever. All too many of them never find their way home.
The mission of Smiley Dog Rescue is to get dogs, perfect and not so perfect, out of the shelters and into safe and loving homes. While waiting for their forever homes, we are committed to providing them with a safe temporary home, food, toys, love, socialization, training, and any medical attention that they may need. We can’t do this without the help of foster parents and donations. We all work full time and volunteer our time in the evenings and on weekends. We need more help to make the world a better place for dogs.