Smiley | Burlington, Ontario pet photographer

Smiley. Saying this golden retriever’s name just makes you grin – it’s impossible not to.

Every dog I meet is special. Whether it’s their personality, history or relationship with their family, I am inspired by each four-legger I photograph. Smiley is all of that and so much more. I call him a “heart dog” — when you meet him, even if it’s just for a moment or two, he changes you. Maybe this sounds hokey to some, but Smiley’s presence is one of peace and unfettered joy. He is happy in a simple, straightforward way that we can all learn from. And his name is truly fitting — he smiles ALL the time. Which makes everyone around him smile. It’s totally contagious and it just makes you feel good.

Smiley was born without eyes and spent his first few years in a puppy mill. His condition also gave him a few other quirks: he is smaller than your average golden, but he has really big teeth. His back legs are a little bowed. And he looks like a puppy — from his size, to his soft, fuzzy coat, you would never guess this boy is nine years old.

Despite his difficult beginnings, Smiley now has an amazing family, and is also a certified therapy dog who gives comfort to mentally ill and disabled patients every week. He loves to be in contact with people.

Now, onto the photos. Smiley is the easiest dog I’ve ever photographed — he is so well behaved and low-key.

Blind golden retriever dog.

In fact, a few times he would settle right in like he was going to take a nap. Of course it’s hard to tell if he’s actually sleeping … I think he enjoyed playing this game with me!

Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.

Shortly after rescuing him, at the age of two, mom Joanne had Smiley’s eyes sewn shut. He looks like he’s smiling so much that he’s squinting. So. Darn. Cute.

I think this next shot is an all-time favourite of mine. The light was amazing and Smiley was so content.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Smiley is completely in tune with Joanne. From the sound of her footsteps to the tone in her voice — her cues let him know if he is safe or if there is an obstacle in his way. He relies on her and trusts her completely. It is an amazing bond that they share.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog and boy.
Blind golden retriever dog and boy.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Smiley likes to introduce himself to everyone. How could you not fall in love with this face?Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog and family.
Blind golden retriever dog.
Blind golden retriever dog.
You might be wondering how Smiley gets around. Well, he bumps into things a lot. And as I quickly learned, when he’s running towards you, he doesn’t know when to stop! But otherwise he gets along just fine. In fact, as he’s going about his doggy business — sniffing, listening, frolicking, nuzzling — you forget that he has a disability. Joanne doesn’t want people to treat him differently or think “poor Smiley.” She says it’s important that he explores his surroundings on his own, using his own instincts, without people hovering over him or cringing every time he bumps into something. She is always close by, and she’s a dog trainer herself, so Smiley is always safe and very well loved.
I’m not the only one who thinks Smiley is special. He has been in the media and has been on stage with Cesar Millan as an “inspirational dog.” You can read more about Smiley in this newspaper article and in this article Joanne wrote for Cottage Dog magazine in which she recounts his first time swimming.
Thank you so much for introducing me to your “heart dog” Joanne. And to Smiley, who made me smile so much my face hurt! I hope we meet again soon.

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  • Lucy - Smiley is so amazing. Very touching story, I must admit it made me tear up a little. Stacey, you did a great job! Beautiful photos of Smiley.ReplyCancel

  • stacey - Thanks so much Lucy – I pretty much fell in love with Smiley the moment I met him. He nuzzled right up to me and just liked being in contact. He really is a special dog!ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - I met Smiley at The Markham Music Festival on Friday, June 16th. He shared an ice cream cone with me and my heart was taken. To his owner. You and Smiley are both so blessed to have found one another :)Thank you for taking such good care of such a beautiful heart. The description of him is much the same as I described to those who weren't with me to experience meeting him. Yes, he's a very special boy 🙂ReplyCancel

  • stacey - I'm so happy you got to meet and experience Smiley – he is one of a kind and does wonderful things for your soul!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Stamps - Cam across this on the Daily Dog Tag. I'm a professional photographer of humans, and am entering the realm of pet photography. I just wanted to drop in and say that I absolutely love your work. You do a fantastic job capturing these doggies!ReplyCancel

  • Anonymous - AWESOME story and pics. Dogs are simply the best.

    Live long and prosper, Smiley!


  • stacey - Thanks Jennifer! I really love pet photography 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Jen St. Louis - I don’t know how I missed this post before, but I’m glad I read it now. Just about broke my little heart. I fell in love with Smiley with the first picture of him. What an absolute sweetheart.

    Our previous fur baby went blind for the last year of his life, and it’s amazing how adaptable these little critters are. Most people didn’t have a clue Merlin couldn’t see unless we told them.

    Dogs see with their noses and their hearts even more than their eyes, I think. It’s just another part of what makes them so special. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • The Gait - Smiley! The most wonderful dog! Please take a moment to read his story! We look forward to having Joanne George back at the Gait this winter! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Julia Kierans - Smiley! The most wonderful dog! Please take a moment to read his story!ReplyCancel

  • Mary Grace G. Phillips - How could you not fall in love with this dog <3

  • Lu Anne - these pictures touched my heart, what an absolutely gorgeous dog he is. So glad he was rescued by this family and given such a wonderful life.ReplyCancel

  • Jim Smith II - I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying… All the pats to Smiley…ReplyCancel

  • Leanne Richardson - Wonderful, beautiful Smiley….ReplyCancel

  • Weaver - This is so incredibly sweet. I just want to give Smiley – and his owner – a huge hug for existing. Beautiful photos.ReplyCancel

  • Michael LaBianca - Goldens are God’s gift to Mankind!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Fullen - I really think he would make our campers happy at camp dogwood in sherrills ford, nc. It’sa camp for the blind and visually impaired. Most of these campers do feel left out and alone and most never get to interact with animals in general.
    Bless him! He us such a sweetie.ReplyCancel

  • Inna Feller - Thank you for this amazing storyReplyCancel

  • Milko Donev - Wonderful………so beautiful 🙂 BravoReplyCancel

  • Malvacias Gilberto Neil Chiche - UN AMORReplyCancel

  • Featured in Modern Dog magazine » Modern Ontario pet photography | Happy Tails Pet Photography - […] something so thrilling to see your work published! I photographed Smiley three years ago, and his heartwarming story is still being shared. It’s so amazing to see my […]ReplyCancel

  • Aarti Sheth-Shah - Had tears in my eyes reading about Smiley’s incredible journey. This little guy is a sure inspiration to all humans. And what a hansome fellow he is:) I am so glad that he found a loving home and I consider all the people who cme in touch with him extremely lucky. Happiness always to you Smiley.ReplyCancel

  • We Catch Up With Internet Sensation Smiley the Therapy Dog | Testing Site - […] adorable therapy dog attracted the attention of countless media outlets after a three-year-old post on a pet photographer’s blog gained traction through sudden social media […]ReplyCancel

  • Born Without Eyes, Loving ‘Smiley’ Brings Joy To Children With Disabilities - eevee - […] Meet Smiley, an adorably happy Golden Retriever who, after a very poor start in life, now works as a… […]ReplyCancel

  • Smiley el perro guia ciego, todo un ejemplo de vida - […] la encargada de dar a conocer su historia a través de un maravilloso reportaje fotográfico en Happy Tails Pet Photography. Como ella misma dice,  “Se choca mucho contra las cosas. Y como aprendí enseguida, cuando […]ReplyCancel