We needed a smile

My brother died in December 2019. In January 2020, the word “coronavirus” appeared on the news. The world was facing a serious health crisis. In March, my husband and I started working from home with no return date in sight. It was clear that 2020 was going to be a year like no other and not in a good way. We needed a smile.

Enter Smiley Syrus.

Last fall, we had seen them run dirty and dry on the side of the road. She appeared to be mostly Redbone. It was obvious that at some point she had mothered a litter of pups, but no one ever went with her. When we approached the dog, she cocked her head and smiled. Her lip curled in a way Elvis appreciated. It seemed her way of ingratifying strangers, as if a toothy grin could keep her from being abused.

In winter she lost her slim, hungry look. She was pregnant.

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When it was time to give birth, she found the worst place to do it. She climbed under our 60-year-old warehouse, which was low on the ground, a structure that we had demolished earlier this month. Smiley had seven puppies there under piles of rubbish and rotten wood.

We couldn’t leave the dogs there. The building came down quickly and its waste was dangerous: tin, broken glass, splintered wood, rusty nails. My husband and our neighbor crawled on their bellies to get Smiley and their pups. We made a safe place for them on our porch.

The pups were cute – all bellies and rinds with red and white spots – but we couldn’t keep them. We posted a few photos on social media and each puppy found their home forever. We gave away the last one at the end of May.

When the last puppy left with its new owners, Smiley searched the property for their babies. She even stood on her back legs and looked into our loading area. She cried when she couldn’t find it. It was devastating for them and us.

We thought it might be human to have her neutered. It would be good for the neighborhood too. When we brought her back from the veterinary clinic, we kept her indoors. “Only temporarily,” I said. “Until she recovers.”

I had never had a dog in the house before. I was worried that she might have an accident or chew on the furniture. She didn’t do either. She was already house trained.

She didn’t bark. She didn’t jump on people. What she wanted most was to be petted. That’s it We fell in love with her.

It helped us forget our sufferings. When I was desperate to lose my brother, she cheered me up with her signature smile. When the world and our country seemed to implode, she made us laugh with a tail-tail. In one terrible year, Smiley brought us what we needed most: joy.


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