Back at the beginning of the year, I started turning over the idea of bringing home a new Golden Retriever puppy to train as a therapy dog. It had been almost two years since we’d lost our previous therapy dog, Scarlet, and not being able to continue doing dog therapy work had left me feeling empty. Our two year old Golden, Faith, was still battling her mischievous adolescent phase, and I was losing hope of her one day becoming a therapy dog. Since we had two vehicles with major (expensive!!) repairs, it did not seem that a new puppy would be in the budget. It would be a dream that I’d have to hold onto and accept that an addition to the family probably wouldn’t take place this year or even next. I would just have to put our plans to get back to work with our therapy dogs on hold.
Even so, I started talking about puppy names with my children. I knew I wanted our next dog to have a name that made you happy to say and hear. We discussed several possibilities including “Happy” or “Oliver” (like I Love ‘er) or my personal favorite “Not Me”. (At least then I’d finally know who was responsible for most of the mishaps around my house. My kids did not find the humor in the suggestion.) Then someone mentioned “Smiley”. In that instance I thought of the word my husband and I had shared with each other hundreds of times throughout our twenty year marriage, “SHMILY”. The letters stand for “See How Much I Love You” and as a therapy dog that would be his ultimate mission – to show the world love. It was perfect. I had the name but still no puppy and no prospect in sight.
By March I started following even more cute puppy accounts on Instagram trying to satisfy my ever-increasing puppy fever. I found myself browsing for collars, doggie bow-ties, and harnesses the way an expectant mother shops for her firstborn. My daughter began talking of plans to have a puppy shower if and when we brought a new pup home. I even started an All Shmily Pinterest board! At this point, I was a lost cause.
While I am a very big advocate of spaying and neutering your pets (and some humans) unless you are a reputable breeder, I had always regretted that I did not breed my beloved Boondocks at least once so that I would have another dog from his bloodline. Boondocks has been one of the best dogs EVER, and at some point I convinced myself that to have another dog as good as him, it would have to be related to him. That’s when I saw a post on Facebook.
Golden Miracles, located in Terry, MS, had just bred their dog, Juliet. Boondocks had come from Golden Miracles and Juliet was Boon’s mother’s grand-daughter! I got excited when I read that, but even more so when I realized that the stud dog was from Rhonda’s Retrievers in Enterprise, MS. Sambo had earned champion titles at just fourteen months old. I had followed his pictures and progress on Rhonda’s Facebook page for some time. It was a match made in Heaven that promised the most perfect puppies on earth.
The owner of Golden Miracles and I have stayed in contact ever since we purchased Boondocks over seven years ago. So as soon as I saw the announcement, I quickly texted her to reserve a puppy and offer my services as a puppy photographer once the pups arrived.
So I waited….
(I’m not very good at waiting!)
and waited some more……
on the evening on Sunday, April 22nd it was announced that this long awaited litter had arrived!
By the time the pups were just ten days old, I’d had all the waiting I could handle. I needed to see and hold and smell the little guy who’d eventually be mine. As it happened, we were moving our daughter out of her dorm not far away from Golden Miracles, and we were allowed to drop by for a quick visit.
My kids are all a bit older now and don’t have to be given instructions how to act in situations, but I warned them as we pulled into the driveway not to fall in love with any specific puppy. It would be weeks before we were allowed to choose and there were several people on the list ahead of us. Once inside, the pup’s breeder and I began to talk as my oldest son and self-proclaimed “cat person” entered the whelping area with the puppies. After a few minutes, he said, “Momma. Come see. There’s just something special about this one.” I smirked thinking, “They’re ten days old. They’re all special.” But as I entered the whelping area and took the small puppy from him, I understood just what he meant. The little pup immediately started nuzzling my face. I was smitten.
The puppies are each given a color at birth to distinguish them from their siblings. This little guy just happened to be silver. “This litter was so big, I had to get creative with colors. We’ve never had a silver before,” the breeder informed me. I blog under the name Sivils and Gold as a play on words combining my last name and my love for Goldens but also because our family’s mission is defined in Acts 3:6 which says, “Listen. I don’t have any silver and gold. But what I have, I’ll give you.” (Southern Version). With dog therapy, that is what we do. We simply give to others what’s been freely given to us through our dogs – unconditional love. I wondered if this puppy’s color had been given by chance or if God in His overwhelming love and power was telling me, “This is your puppy.” Either way it was still four and half weeks before I could choose and out of the nine males, I was SEVENTH on the list. Unless it was a God thing, we were sure Silver would be chosen before our turn to pick.
Just before the puppies turned five weeks old, I was asked to come and do a photography session with them. Having been born in April, the breeder had titled their litter as “April Showers of Blessings”. My daughter who is a graphic design major worked with me to help build an adorable back drop, and we had a blast taking all of the puppy’s pictures. Before arriving I had talked myself down regarding Silver. “Samantha, you can’t attach yourself to one puppy. It’s going to still be another week before you can choose. Any of these puppies are just as wonderful as another. Don’t set yourself up for heart-ache.” Good talk. It just didn’t sink in. I had saved Silver for last thinking I might want to spend a bit more time with him. When I took him in my arms after the eleven other puppies, he did something not one of them had done. He immediately jumped up and began bathing my face in puppy kisses. I almost started crying. It really seemed he remembered our previous meeting. I didn’t think it possible. I passed him to my husband to position him while I took the picture. When Tommy sat him against the backdrop, he again did something that none of the other eleven did. He began to wag his tail so vigorously it beat against the backdrop like a drum. That was it. I was smitten. I would not be happy with one of the other eleven. Silver clearly knew he was mine and I was his.
I now had eight days left to wait. I prayed. My husband and kids prayed. My mom prayed. My friends prayed. I wanted Silver so badly but more than that I wanted God to pick the dog that would work for our family and be able to serve as a therapy dog one day. Golden Miracles had two days lined up to choose your puppy beginning on Saturday and continuing on Sunday. They contacted me at the end of Saturday. Silver was still available. There was one person ahead of me on Sunday. I was suppose to arrive at 4 P.M. and wouldn’t be able to know until I got there if they’d chosen him. “They fell in love with him, Samantha. They went back and forth for an hour. But then they picked a different one.” As soon as I lifted Silver/Shmily into my arms, he did his thing once more – he showered me with puppy kisses. “Samantha, all these people that have come and looked at him, he hasn’t reacted like that with anyone else.” Maybe he did remember me from that first meeting at ten days old. Or maybe he was the one God had chosen for me!
After we had seen pictures of Shmily the first time (before we knew which one was indeed Shmily), it was decided that his official emoji would be the heart-eyed smiley face. Not only was that the most common emoji people used when I shared his picture, it’s was also the actual expression on my face when I would think of him. On his bring him home day, my kids planned a “surprise” welcome home party for us. (Best. Surprise. Ever.) It was complete with my best friend (who’s a photographer) who had driven two hours to take pictures of the occasion, toys, blue and SILVER balloons, and cake. The “icing on the cake” was actually the cake the kids had made in the shape of the official Shmily emoji!! My son had told my daughter not to get silver balloons in case we didn’t get the silver puppy. She said, “Nope. He’s the one we’re getting. I just know it.”
Two weeks in and we couldn’t love this little guy more. He is amazing!! God truly went before us and planned every aspect and provided everything we asked, needed, and more. I planned for a puppy. God responded by saying, “See How Much I Love You?” and sent me Shmily.
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