Some dogs step into our lives with a mission. For Tina D., Smokey was her dog with a mission of mercy.
She couldn't have known, on a mid-August evening in 2002, that her world was about to change. When she stepped out on her front porch close to midnight -- for no particular reason -- she saw something moving around at the end of her driveway, sniffing at trash thrown from a passing car. Tina could tell it was a dog and called to it, expecting it to run but secretly hoping the little stranger would come to her instead. "When she came running right up to me" recounts Tina, "I couldn't believe it. It was like God had sent me my Corgi straight from Heaven."
Although at the time she owned a Pomeranian and a Border Collie, Tina wanted a Corgi and had for a while. She bugged her husband, who kept putting her off because of the county's two dogs per household rule. "I think he finally got tired of me asking when he said "Maybe for your birthday" says Tina. "That sort of shut me up; even though I didn't REALLY believe him. It gave me a date to shoot for."
As it turned out, Tina didn't have to wait 'til her August 27th birthday. Smokey showed up on their anniversary date of August 16th.
"The stray was so skinny, I could count every rib. Filthy but so sweet. I brought her in the house and she got along with the other two dogs. First of I all I had to feed the poor girl, and boy did she eat. Then a bath; she was so dirty I didn't even know she was white! She definitely made herself at home, even sleeping on the bed with us. The next morning I noticed that she was actively nursing because her teats were full, so I set off trying to find where she lived or at least hopefully her babies, even though I had a really bad feeling about it. I knew she had starved for a while because everything I fed her went right through her. We walked all over the neighborhood and asked everyone if they knew her or had ever seen her, but no one had. I made flyers and posted them and kept her while waiting, but no one ever called. All the while I was falling in love with her. I named her "Smoke" after my favorite NASCAR driver Tony Stewart because that is his nickname and she just kind of appeared like smoke."
"She and I developed such a bond so fast. It was like I needed her as much as she needed me. I was at one of the lowest -- perhaps the lowest ever -- points of my life, I had no job, I was depressed and had just come through treatment for that, and I was dealing the the fact that I was never going to be able to have children. Really just an all around bad time, but I had my dogs and my husband."
"My whole attitude changed. I loved my other dogs so much, but Smoke was different. She was special, with these big, black eyes that could look into my soul. She knew when I was feeling really down and would just be there, just to lay with me. Funny too. She was definitely part Basset Hound and had the funniest bark ever, and the goofiest feet. My Moke was soooo long we nicknamed her "long dog". I remember the first time we took her to our vet he said "Well aren't you an interesting looking girl." To me, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen."
"About six months after she found us, I had Smokey on the leash in our front yard when a car pulled into our driveway. The strangers inside asked if we had found her. My heart sank. In that moment, I thought I would die. My husband told them that she showed up six months earlier and we had put up fliers and done a search. Turns out they lived ONE street over! I'd walked the whole neighborhood and no one had ever seen this dog. Her former owners said they didn't want her back and were happy she had a home. I know in my heart they had dropped her off, and God only knows what they did with those poor puppies."
"Smoke was such a caretaker. In 2004 I had to have a hysterectomy and was home sick from work for six weeks in a lot of pain. She was the velcro dog who never left my side. She would get on the sofa and sleep between my legs. I'm convinced she was like my guardian angel. My girl just always knew when I needed her and she was there."
"She began traveling with us, going along to Kentucky, North Carolina, Maryland. Her favorite was our annual trip to the mountains for the Fall Martinsville NASCAR race. We called it her "wine tasting" trip. She really did love to go places with us, except to the vet. Smokey knew when we were taking her too. She could tell just by the turns the car made. Way too smart."
"My love for her just grew by leaps and bounds when our Pomeranian Sable got sick. One evening Sable had a seizure and because it was a holiday weekend we had to take her to the ER vet. I found out she was in renal failure and really didn't have very long. I was devastated. I'd had Sable since way before I had even met my husband. That night I made her up a bed next to mine so I could keep an eye on her. When we were getting ready to turn the lights off, I noticed Smoke was real restless on the bed so I helped her off thinking maybe she was thirsty. When she got down, she went over and laid down next to Sable and kept an eye on her all night. She slept next to her every night like that until she died. That was the first night in three years she didn't sleep on the bed with us, and she didn't sleep with us again for three more months because she had to make sure Sable was OK."
"That's the type of girl she was. That's why I loved her so much. She did the same with me when I was sick or sad, the same with my husband when he was incapacitated with his hips. Moke Moke was a caretaker. When I say she was sent to me from Heaven, I truly mean it."
"A few years ago, the vet told me he was 99% sure Smokey had Cushing's Disease. She was old, I knew that, I just didn't know how old. She wasn't acting sick, so we made the decision not to treat because as a nurse I knew the treatment had it's own risks and taking away the extra steroids could cause her to be in pain. The doctor fully supported our decision but I remained obsessed with everything about her. I cried just thinking about losing her. Over the next couple of years I could see her start to slowly decline, but when it came to food she was like a pup! She would run between my husband and I begging -- definitely hopped up on the steroids!"
"When she stopped eating, I knew. I am so thankful I didn't have to make the decision to put her down. Just like she always did, Smokey took care of me and made sure I was OK. She waited until I fell asleep from exhaustion the night she died and then slipped away. I honestly don't think the Cushing's had anything to do with her passing, though in the back of my mind I feel sort of guilty about not treating her."
"That face of hers is burned into my memory. Those eyes could look into my soul. I have never felt a love like that or a bond so strong. I would give anything to hold her again."