It’s an everyday occurrence at the Richmond SPCA to be in love. Whether it’s the boisterous, stocky mixed breed dog with the most beautiful smile, or the long-haired cat who’s just a little bit shy, these animals are quick to capture and captivate our hearts. However, every once in a while you meet an animal who’s extra special, who really needs you and you fall. HARD.
A couple of weeks ago Beth, a member of the Richmond SPCA’s animal care staff, approached me about having an office dog. If animals are particularly stressed in the shelter, we’ll work to alleviate that stress by having them spend the work day in an office, where things are quieter and calmer. The dog Beth told me about was older, roughly 7, and he came to us because his owner had passed away. Family tried to keep him, but the dogs they had were already a handful, so they surrendered him to the Richmond SPCA. His name is Smoke.
Smoke was understandably distressed at this change. He spent each day on his feet, never settling. He panted constantly. He wasn’t eating. But he was by no means shy. When they brought Smoke to my office he was quick to come up and introduce himself, licking my hands and wagging his long dragon tail. He wore a gray Thundershirt, which helped him to feel a bit more secure and comforted, but his stress was persistent. Smoke spent two and a half hours in my office with me that afternoon. He never sat down once. He ignored dry food and two different types of wet food, but he certainly didn’t ignore me. Smoke spent every minute by my side, nudging my elbow with his nose and laying his head on my lap whenever I stopped petting him to type. For a while I managed to type with my right hand and pet him with my left, but Smoke and I had other work to do.
The next day Smoke spent more time in my office, and things improved slowly. He laid down for 30 minutes. He ate a jar or two of chicken-flavored baby food and about six Beggin’ Strips. Still, as stressed as he was without his person, he was never shy. Every volunteer and staff member who came by my door was greeted by a smiling gray muzzle and a long white-tipped tail swaying from side to side. He’d lick their fingers and turn right around so they could scratch his rump. If they stopped he turned to face them again, still smiling, ears perked up, eyes sparkling expectantly. His love for each person was just as strong and just as tangible as it was for everyone else. He gave his heart to every stranger immediately and unapologetically.
I started to wonder late that morning how Smoke would do if he was taken out of the shelter for the night. I worried it would be tough to get permission to take him home until I spoke with Dr. Ivey, our Director of Veterinary Medicine, who happily exclaimed “take him home for the whole weekend!” It was Friday, so I did.
Smoke was an angel in the car. He’d clearly done this a thousand times before. He laid in the back while I was driving, stood to check things out whenever we stopped, and laid back down as soon as I pulled off. He aced that test. The next one was the house.
We were the first ones home that day, giving Smoke some time to explore and become familiar with the house before meeting my parents and my nephew. He came upstairs with me to do laundry, and when I pulled a blanket out of the hamper he laid on it before I was able to finish folding it. He was fascinated by the upstairs windows, alternating between watching the birds and watching me. When my family got home he ran to the door to meet them. They sat on the floor with him, and he stood in their laps. He sniffed their faces and licked their chins.
Smoke fit into the family effortlessly. Within an hour his Thundershirt was off. He didn’t need it any more. He laid on the floor with me and watched TV. He begged for my dinner and ate a bowl of mixed wet and dry food in one sitting. He made rounds between me, my parents and my nephew, getting loved on, rubbed and scratched by one person and moving on to the next. That night he slept by my bed. Saturday night it was more of the same. When he woke up at 5 a.m., I pulled a pillow and a blanket onto the floor, and he came to lay with me. He was asleep again within a few minutes.
Since Smoke has been in my office he’s changed completely. He doesn’t shake anymore, and he only pants when he’s excited. He still wears his Thundershirt just as a precaution. Smoke is the perfect dog. He’s great with kids, cats and car rides. He’s housetrained, and I’ve never seen him get into trouble. He still retains some pickiness about his food, but he can be tempted by things that are chicken flavored, and he loves eggs and Beggin’ Strips. He can be a little picky about his doggie friends too, but he’s just an older gentleman who prefers calmer company.
Generally, Smoke himself is calm, but he has his moments of sheer joy. When I get him out of his kennel in the mornings he jumps on the door, forgetting for a moment that he’s older and his hips are sore. When we walk outside together, he happily surprises me by jumping up to lick my cheek. As we walk down the halls, he nudges my hand with his nose. If I have to leave my office for a moment, I come back and look over the door to see him prancing and smiling at me, tongue hanging out and dragon tail always wagging.
Like I said, Smoke is the perfect dog. He deserves the perfect family. It hurts sometimes to know that I can’t adopt him, but I’m excited to see which awesome people will take him home – which people he’ll bring such joy and happiness to next.
Smoke has many names and nicknames in the shelter: Smoke, Smokey, Smokas, Smoke-a-Smoke, Smokers, Storm, Stormy, Sam, Sammy, and, my personal favorite, Smoka-Love. His name changes minute by minute. His heart has been the same since day one. Please come to the Richmond SPCA and meet Smoke! He’ll brighten your day. And for some lucky person, he’ll brighten your whole life.
For information about adopting Smoke, visit richmondspca.org/adopt call 804-521-1307.
Michelle Nicolli is the coordinator of volunteers and programs at the Richmond SPCA. To read the biographies of our regular bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.