Smoky the Lifesaving Dog

In June 1996, we adopted a dog from the Marin Humane Society. Ironically, we almost did not adopt the dog due to an overzealous volunteer at the humane society trying to talk us out of adopting a dog. My wife and I had finally gotten our own house, so we were able to finally get a dog and practice our nesting skills as animal parents. We'd moved from apartment to apartment in Pacifica to Half Moon Bay, then back to Pacifica for three years living in the San Francisco Bay Area before finally getting a house.

We got selected for government housing in Golden Gate National Recreation Area where I worked. The house was in the Marin Headlands. It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom duplex from the 1950's. The dog was a ten month old black lab cocker spaniel mix. He looked like a miniature black lab and would not get any bigger. The dog was originally named Little Bit, but we changed the name to Smoky based on his black color with brown spots. The dog had a magic affect on my wife who suffered from depression. I could not believe how my wife would smile around the dog, she practically shined.

When we decided to adopt a dog, we went to the Marin Humane Society. They did a great job training the dogs as we watched a training class. We saw Smoky practicing walking, sitting, and stopping. We adopted Smoky and so began our ownership of our first dog as a married couple. We would take Smoky on walks and he would sit on the top of our sofa next to the bay window waiting for us to come home. We would take Smoky on walks in the park where he would alert on wild Bobcats.

I was offered a promotion to New York and off we went. Smoky got to see his first snow. Smoky got to live in a third floor 2 bedroom, two bathroom apartment on USS New Mexico Court at Fort Wadsworth at the base of the Verrazano Bridge on Staten Island. I would take Smoky on walks to Seabee Beach and Battery Weed.  Battery Weed was a pre-Civil War fort built by Union Captain Robert E. Lee. Seabee Beach overlooked the New York Harbor and was always full of ships and boats passing by. Smoky was a loyal dog and would lie next to you when you were sick or he would sit on the back of the sofa looking out the front window waiting on you to come home from work.

Another promotion took us to Georgia. This promotion was accepted to allow a time and place to have babies. We bought our first house in Tupelo Circle with a big yard for Smoky. We had two boys, first Caleb, then Jacob. Smoky played with the boys and safeguarded them. Smoky allowed the boys to pull on his tail and ears.  We would take Smoky for walks around our neighborhood with older son, Caleb on foot at age 2 and our younger son Jacob in his stroller. I'd hold Caleb's hand and would carry Smoky's leash so Smoky could join us as my wife pushed Jacob in his stroller.

There was neighbor that had a mean German Shepherd in a yard with an electronic fence. The Shepherd would regularly crash the fence getting an audible shock, but charging the fence none the less because it was so vicious. The dog growled, barked, and showed his teeth. We were always on alert when we got near the German Shepherd house. It was the only low point on our daily walk. We never saw the dog's owners.

One day, on our daily walk my wife said, "That dog is loose, the fence is down."

The urgency in her voice  made my parental concern rise up. I immediately looked around and did not see the hostile dog in its usual spot. The hair went up on the back of my neck as I looked to my right to see the German Shepherd lunging towards my 2 year old son's right arm with its jaws open in a biting position. The German Shepherd managed to sneak right up on us.  Our small dog Smoky leaped at the dog twice his size with the ferociousness of a paternal lion protecting its young.

Smoky began chasing the larger dog repeatedly biting at its hind quarters while I joined the chase yelling at the big aggressive dog. I was acting like a terrified parent pushed too far as I dealt with the adrenalin dump from the mix of fight or flight at the prospect of seeing my son's arm bit off by the monster dog. We went home quickly as our walk became a retreat home to check everyone for injuries. Everyone escaped injury despite the scary encounter.

Smoky made two more moves with us. One to Nevada for a job transfer where our daughter, Shannon was born. Smoky's last move was back to Georgia. My folks died in 2006, then Smoky got sick with cancer. I wasn't ready for another death. I prayed Smoky would like for another year for me to deal with my grief. Smoky died one year later in 2007. The kids wanted to get another dog right away, but I said no. I said we needed one year of grieving before we got another dog. One year later the kids hit me up at a mobile dog adoption. I let the kids pick out a puppy and my oldest got to name it, Shadow. He named it Shadow because it was a shadow of Smoky, the dog who saved his life.  


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