Smokey: A Dog I Knew but Never Met

Smokey in later years on his wood deck. (Beth Dietz)

Smokey in later years on his wood deck. (Beth Dietz)

From the moment I saw his generous grin and chestnut coat, I knew I’d like him. We had not yet met. And we never would.

His name was Smokey, and I first came to know about him through his human companion Beth.

I only came to know who Beth really is as a person through what she wrote me about Smokey.

That I never met either of them never proved an impediment to knowing her and understand him.

Beth and Smokey as a puppy. Smokey in his wonderland. Smokey's last birthday. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Beth and Smokey as a puppy. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

It wasn’t long into my written contact with Beth that I came to recognize yet another one of those subtle yet tangible methods in which Dogs help give us Humans more meaning in our lives. Anyone who invests themselves into the life and well-being of their Dog companion already know how they can so help teach us aspects about ourselves, wonderful qualities we’re reluctant to acknowledge and weaknesses we are loath to confront.

But Dogs can also help us to develop empathy and create friends and acquaintances among our fellow Humans. That’s what Smokey did. Dogs can bridge distances and cultures in a way which becomes as universal a language as music.

Very Old Dog: Yeager lived happily ever after, but not  by accident.

Very Old Dog: Yeager lived happily ever after, but not by accident.

In the weeks following the death of my great and constant companion, a 90-pound 16-year old Weimaraner named Yeager, I wrote about what helped him to live happily ever after to the end, without pain, euthanasia or abandonment and also how one needs to help oneself through this process.

I’ve never lost my gratitude for the peaceful way he went, in my arms in his favorite chair. It wasn’t magic or a miracle that it happened exactly as I had literally visualized it. It was hard work, involving submission of all effort and money towards his care, sacrifice of time with family and friends, and foregoing professional opportunities. It was also the happenstance of my circumstances.

If I had others to care for or worked from an office outside the home, I’m not sure I would have had the privilege of choice.

And while we human caretakers too often feel alone during this process, we actually never are. If we look around and reach out.

Smokey was for Beth an attentive friend with focus. Beth and Smokey as a puppy. Smokey in his wonderland. Smokey's last birthday. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Smokey was for Beth an attentive friend with focus.(Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Beth, and people like her, had, were or would day soon be facing those months (not long at all, but too short) of seeing their beloved Dogs age, decline and inevitably die – yet all the while vitally engaged and alive. Just like I did. And those are Humans I felt I could perhaps help by writing about that process: good people who made a rational choice to help their Dog companion live as long as they wanted to, as long as they were never in any physical pain.

People who never questioned that helping Dogs, even at every possible inconvenience to themselves for what is ultimately a brief period of time often find not merely a lack of support for this choice but bewilderment, belittlement, and even abandonment by family and friends. And, it was after reading one of my articles that Beth contacted me out of the blue.

So many people are making the same choice Beth and I both did with our Dog companions yet find themselves often at a daily crossroad of choices to make with no resources or other Humans from whom they might seek the advice of experience.

Vigilant watcher of birds.  (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Vigilant watcher of birds. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

And as we began a correspondence, she kept me appraised of their unfolding challenges. And each stage began increasingly familiar to what I’d gone through a year and two years before.

Smokey had been diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy, a nerve degenerative syndrome which begins with weakness in the hind quarters that leads to paralysis and can continue to the front legs, and brain-stem.  She began reading everything about it and became increasingly horrified. I had been through that too. As it turned out, the “greatest orthopedic veterinarian in Los Angeles” who had “diagnosed” Yeager with DM and stated confidently that he would be paralyzed in six months was proven a fraud when Yeager was still shuffling out for a walk – four years later. Yeager, it proved, only had a pinched nerve in his lower back, which led to some symptoms common in DM.

I’m not sure if Beth took hope from that, since it was not an issue we wrote to each other about at great length. Smokey did not develop full paralysis in his back legs. For the year left to him, he only needed a boost but could still walk. What I do know is that such a diagnosis can make some give up on their Dog companion or commit to doing everything to stall such a dire prediction.

Beth and Smokey worked as a team.  (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Beth and Smokey worked as a team. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

The the level of attentiveness Beth invested into Smokey’s well-being had the affect of only making this gentle fellow even more engaged and alert, and making her a partner in his care, ever alert to the slightest shift in symptoms. Dogs know when a Human can be counted on. Sensing that commitment, I believe, reduces their anxiety which has a positive affect on their overall well-being.

Motivated to do all she could to serve him with dignity, Beth got Smokey some “wheels,” one of the dog carts made by various companies which I told her had worked so well in helping Yeager rebuild and sustain muscle loss.

Yeager took to his cart; Smokey did not.

Yeager took to his cart; Smokey did not.

In Yeager’s case, an Eddie’s Wheels cart permitted him to keep his back straight and resist having his back nerve pinch, and required him to keep depending on his back legs in order to move along in the cart.

In Smokey’s case, he looked askance at the contraption; after a few efforts to make a go of it, Beth realized it was an investment that wouldn’t return.

Yeager in his Help "em Up harness.

Yeager in his Help “em Up harness.

But if Smokey didn’t dig wheels, he took to a harness made by a company which trademarks their brand as the Help ‘Em Up Harness.

These sturdy harnesses wrap around a Dog’s body with handles attached to the top. With no more trouble than handling luggage, the harness helps a person lift a Dog into and out of a car, so they can continue to ride around with their best friend. It was a life-saver for Beth and Smokey, as it was for Yeager and for me.

Smokey in his wonderland. Smokey's last birthday. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Smokey in his wonderland. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

As Beth continued to update me via email on Smokey’s condition over the course of twelve months,  from her home on the East Coast to mine on the West Coast, I found myself increasingly invested in both of their well-beings.  She told me often of how much Smokey’s territory reduced to their back garden yet how he daily anticipated his walks to the far reaches of it, along with her.

And that made me think of Yeager’s insistence on daily walks to a front garden of a house around the block where there were always treats put out for him, “Snack House.”

I knew Beth’s back garden was no mere plot of soil and grass but a wonderland of nature, because it was such a happy and symbolic daily ritual for Smokey.

I knew that without asking because I knew that walking to Snack House had become the greatest moment not only for Yeager but for me, in his waning days.

Smokey's last birthday. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Smokey’s last birthday. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Without having to ask intrusive questions, I had a sense of what might else be going on. In the final months of Yeager’s life, he became incontinent; ensuring everyone’s well-being meant vigilance in maintaining a state of sanity and a sanitary state. Through trial and error, I had developed a four-layer padding system. On Smokey’s birthday at the end of February, Beth posted a picture of him beside his toy birthday cake. Something about his demeanor in that image seemed to illustrate dignity, and I re-posted it. Few others likely noted that his frail legs rested on a white absorbent pad, but I did. To me, it silently symbolized the effort she was now making as I had once done.

I never got to meet Smokey, yet somehow "knew" him. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

I never got to meet Smokey, yet somehow “knew” him. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

And then came the days of late spring three months ago, when I made a trip back to the East Coast, Every day was tightly scheduled with meetings, and seeing friends and family in Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York City and Upstate New York. I’d continued to keep in touch by Facebook with Beth. Suddenly, it seems, her updates on Smokey began to seem more staccato and briefer. I didn’t know what she was now facing, nearly a year after our initial contact, but I sensed it.

If I’d felt close to Beth or Smokey by empathetic experience, I was now far closer in real proximity to them. With only the knowledge that they were located in New Jersey, I quickly intended to finally pay my brief respects to the old fellow and his human friend in person, assuming I could just step off at a train station along the route from Washington to New York. I threw the idea her way and Beth was welcoming.

Then, the reality set in of just where they were located. It wasn’t a matter of diverting my itinerary for an hour or two, but of renting a car for upwards of a day that was already long spoken for.

A maturing Smokey. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

A maturing Smokey. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

It was a fleeting idea, but some strange sense of urgency told me this had been the brief window to enact my impulse. I didn’t suggest this to Beth, nor she to me. Perhaps it was that June 3 was upon me, marking the second anniversary of the day Yeager died. There’s no more constructive way to channel the energy one may still feel for a being no longer present than to direct it towards those who evoke that life.

My sense, however, proved not based on sentiment. On June 5, while I was still on the East Coast, Smokey died, two days after Yeager had.

Some long, sad days later, however, as Beth detailed the circumstances of their last moments together, I was struck by how it had unfolded for them as it had for us.

Prepared to have euthanasia performed at the sign of his experiencing any pain, Beth never had to proceed with that decision.

As she held and calmed him, Smokey died naturally at 7:40 p.m. As I had held and calmed him, Yeager had died naturally at 7:57 p.m.

Similar facts make coincidences, but what resonates with deeper relevance to Beth’s experience was all that she had done which brought her to be with him at his end.

Smokey at the start of life. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Smokey at the start of life. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

It wasn’t a matter of merely being certain she was present with Smokey in that instant, but all the millions of instant moments which led up to that one moment. It was a commitment she made and maintained since Smokey had first started living.

Just as I have done in creating The Yeager Fund at the Friends for Pets rescue and shelter of Southern California, to help elderly and disabled Dogs who don’t have individual Human companions caring for them, so too Beth has now created Smokey’s Fund at the Animal Care Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, a place where many unadopted animals will live out their lives with care, if not a family of their own.

The ticking seconds move all our lives through time rapidly; only when we punctuate those seconds by learning to observe other lives more closely do we find richness in simply living.

Dogs simply are, they don’t do.

It’s the Human companions of Dogs who find meaning from our existence with them and even more especially by our caring for them when they are most in need.

We find it by learning the natural respect which all living beings deserve.

We find it by learning to respect our own abilities.

And we find it by recognizing how respecting all beings, including ourselves, helps us understand, support, empathize and know others we may never meet.

Human or Dog.

Smokey's garden. (Smokey's Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)

Smokey’s garden. (Smokey’s Fund, animalcaresanctuary.org)


Categories: Dogs

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43 replies »

  1. Carl, what a beautiful writing, thank you….I was blessed with Smokey’s love…and I am blessed with your friendship…

  2. Carl, just a little over a month ago I had to put my cat Athena to sleep. She had cancer, and although I loved her very, very much, the time had come when she was beginning to suffer. For a long time, however, I was able to keep her alive and I was able to love her with all my heart. The last few months, she had an ulcerated sore that would drain, next to a huge lump. The open sore was constantly draining puss and blood. Many told me to just have her put to sleep, but for those last few months, the sore was not causing her any real pain or discomfort. My house looked like a towel factory because everywhere you looked I had towels to absorb the blood and puss. I would then do a billion loads of laundry with bleachy water to disinfect the towels. As she grew weaker and weaker, I would have to pick her up and put her on her favorite perches in the house. All the extra work was worth it just to see the love and trust in Athena’s eyes. Those last few months were some of the best and the worst for both of us. I miss her terribly, and as I write this I find myself tearing up. But I felt I must share this with you because the story you posted here, as well as all your Yeager stories touched me so much.

    Eventually I will be getting another kitten, but not quite yet. I do want to impress upon you, however, that a cat can form the same type of bonds with its human. Athena would sleep with me every night. She would nestle right up against my hip and purr away until she fell asleep. Then in the middle of the night she would get up and nestle with my husband. The first week after we lost Athena was so hard because coming home and now have her greeting us at the door was gut wrenching. But for those who say they would never have another pet because of the pain of loss, I can only say that I would go through it all again. There can never be another Athena, but there are other kittens who can give love and who need a loving home.

    • Dear Lisa: I am so very sorry to hear what you went through. Certainly for me there is no difference in the respect due to the life of a cat compared to a dog or any animal for that matter. And I’ve also observed that those who have a genuine commitment to the well-being of their animal companions are the last people on earth who are willing to permit them to suffer for even an hour, and the very first to euthanize them if they are suffering with no chance of recovery. I think the greatest conflict is when people want to do what you did, what I did, what so many do in caring for them – but are unable to because they can’t be home or have important commitments to others, or travel or have limited funds which prevent them from the great expense. It is a privilege to have to face this choice in many respects. Thank you very much for writing and expressing your own process. People must never forget that when they go through what is often a solitary experience is, in fact, shared by millions.

      • Thank you Carl. I felt compelled to share because I wanted you to know for two reasons. The first is that a while back I shared with you about Athena’s lump, the removal of the lump, and how I thought, and the vet thought Athena would be fine. It turned out that it was cancer and it spread. The second reason is all too often people dismiss cats as being too aloof to be worthy of the care and love that dogs receive. Athena, and many cats, are as loving and loyal as dogs. I’ve had a dog and so I have known the love of both dogs and cats. Both types of animals give us so much love and devotion. Because you are an animal lover, and because those reading this column are animal lovers, I wanted to share.

        To Beth I would like to express my condolences. Losing a best friend and family member is so hard and so painful. I know. I pray that as time passes, you will remember the good times with Smokey, and the pain will leave. You must be a wonderful person to have devoted so much to your dog. I don’t know if you will get another dog in the future, but if you do, that dog will be truly blessed to have you.

        • Anyone who has truly loved and respected a Dog couldn’t but help feel likewise about a Cat. Otherwise, the entire process of learning to love and respect beings other than Human would be lost. Thank you for this.

        • Lisa, I couldn’t agree with your comments more. Far too many people dismiss cats as “aloof.” When someone says “I am not a cat person,” I immediately begin to wonder if they have the capability to notice details, something that’s required when it comes to cats. Cats are vastly different creatures from dogs, but capable of just as much affection, just not in a wiggly, slobbery way, and certainly capable of just as much intelligence as any dog. To understand a cat, a person must be willing to be patient, pay attention, and observe. I love all animals, and in my life I have been lucky to be the caretaker for dogs, sheep, goats, chipmunks, fish, turtles, and a tarantula. (The tarantula history is a long story. Spiders are probably one of the most misunderstood creatures around.) And to the menagerie, I add cats. I have two now. I would love to have a dog, but in an attempt to accept that I am a person who does not like to have to walk a dog on a cold winter morning, or late at night before bed, I have postponed that situation – at least for now. Dogs deserve commitment, just like any animal.

          I’ve had to choose euthanasia for two very loved cats over the past 12 years. One was named Gracie, and the first thing she did when I got home and opened the door was to roll over onto her back and beg for her stomach to be tickled. The second was a male VERY orange tabby named Frank whose idea of fun was to jump onto my pillow early in the morning and lick my hair. Making the choice to end their suffering when they developed terminal health issues was devastating. Our pets become part of our lives on a daily basis, and the loss of one them is as bad as losing a person we love.

          • Thank you so much Timothy. Yes, I can tell you understand and have been through it. I too am an animal lover, but I must confess that I would be freaking out at a tarantula or any type of bug. Last week I had a banana spider fall into my hair while gardening. I thought I would pass out from freight. I’m not sure, but I may brave the Humane Society this weekend and see if I can find another kitten. Athena’s littermate, Artemis, misses her sister. I’m hoping that her mothering instincts might kick in if she has a kitten to raise. That may help her to get past her morning her sister. I’ve considered getting a fully grown cat, but I think Artemis may consider a fully grown cat as a threat. A kitten, however, would be her baby to raise.

        • Lisa, I send my thoughts and sincere condolences to you, as well. I am so sorry…

          I have had the love of many dogs in my life (growing up and until now)….was not a time I did not. Smokey was just a very special soul…in so many ways and I know he touched many….many who have never even met him. I remember all the love and good times….but it is still painful. Deep love and devotion can hurt. I miss him…

          People have asked me…when will I get another dog. I tell them when I can speak of Smokey without tears….when my heart is ready to give them everything they deserve. Then and only then will be time…

          Again, dear Carl, thank you for giving my Smokey a voice….I know there are so many like him….like Yeager….like you, like me. You write from your heart…

          • Thank you Beth. Your kind words are greatly appreciated. You will know when the time is right to get another dog. No one should push you into it until you are ready. Grieving is a process. You loved Smokey and you need to grieve and morn his death in your own way and in your own time. When that time comes, any puppy or dog that is chosen to be your new baby will be a very blessed canine.

            In my case I may get another kitten this weekend. I can’t say that I no longer cry when I think of Athena. Her grave is in my backyard and I still visit it daily. But Athena’s littermate is my other cat Artemis. Artemis misses her sister and is morning her as well. I’m hoping that a kitten will become her baby and will help her.

          • Lisa, wishing you many happy days with the new kitten. I know that will bring your Artemis a loving companion, as well.

          • Thank you so much Beth. i didn’t get the kitten this weekend. Much to my surprise, the shelter was closed on Monday for Labor Day. So I will have to find another day when the whole family can go and agree on a new kitten. In the meantime, I’ve been checking on line to see the pictures of the kittens currently available. I think it would do Artemis good to be a “mommy” to a kitten. It would take her mind off her lonliness over the loss of her sister Athena. These are the things only another devoted pet lover would understand. Thank you. And one day, I hope to see posted that you have another dog to love and to give you love as well. But take your time. You will know when that time is ready. Don’t be rushed. It is a very personal decision. I do know, however, that whoever that dog is will be a very blessed animal.

          • Lisa, I thank you. My best coming to you, your Artemis and her tiny companion when ever she comes. Please let me know when your new love comes into your family….I will surely let you know when mine comes, too.

          • Beth, you’ve got a deal. I’ll let you know when I have a new “baby” in the house for Artemis and for us. I am beginning to look forward to it actually. She will never replace Athena, because I’ve never seen any other cat like her, but I’m sure I will learn to love her too. Still, there will only be one Athena. Do you know that when my son was a toddler, he dragged Athena into the bathtub with him not once, but twice. She was never declawed so she could have scratched him up because as you know, cats don’t like water. Instead she knew he was only a baby and just pitifully meowed for help. She wouldn’t even attempt to save herself and jump out of the tub for fear of hurting him. What an incredible cat she was. I miss her.

            I know you have many memories of your Smokey like that. They are quite bitter sweet, aren’t they? There will never be another Smokey, I know, but I know there will be another dog in your life that will give you love and companionship, and that you in turn can love too. I’m looking forward to that day for you…and for the lucky puppy that will eventually become a part of your life.

          • Athena sounds like an amazing soul herself, Lisa. Yes, many memories with my Smokey. I just wanted to post here I will be going to Kenya for 3 weeks this coming Thursday. I foster 7 orphaned elephants from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust so I am going to see them. Some are still in the Nursery in Nairobi while the others have taken their second step at living wild again in two places in Tsavo National Park. I will have time to be still there and really listen to my heart…and when I come home, it is the time to think about welcoming that new love into my life.

            We will never forget our beloved friends…..no one will ever ever replace them…..but I know Smokey would want my heart to be full again. And your sweet Athena wants that, too….

          • Lisa, wanted to let you know….a new love came into our lives this Sunday. I knew my trip to Kenya would leave me so many moments to think and open my heart. The name ‘Malaika’ kept coming into my mind but I knew that was a female name and I had not had a female dog since my Kelly from 1973. I came back from my trip…one day went to the Animal Care Sanctuary’s web site like I sometimes do….to see what is new and to look at my Smokey’s page. For some reason, I clicked on their link ‘Adoptable Pets’. Well, a very beautiful (male) so it was posted, named Abbe, just jumped in my heart. I emailed my friend at Animal Care and asked about him…she said (she!) is still available and do I want details? Well, my heart had already spoken….and now Malaika..which means Angel in Swahili…..is home with us.

  3. Carl, some of your posts break my heart, even while I love them. Thank you for them.

  4. Hi Carl: Once again I teared up, as I read about these gallant friends. How blessed all of us, who have had passionate engagement with our pets, be they cats or dogs with chronic illness or end-of-life issues. It’s been 7 yrs since I put my precious ChocolateMan to sleep, and I still wrestle with myself, wondering if I did the right thing, acted selfish, didn’t do enough, etc. etc. My 17 yr old dark-mocha Himalayan, had developed kidney disease and was blind when I made the decision to say good-by. I was very blessed to have my dear friend/veterinarian with me, at my home when the time came. Fortunately, I followed our doctor’s strong advice to bring in a new kitten, hoping I would have another year with my dear familiar. I tell you, that young kitten, snow-white & blue-eyed, a distinct contrast to his ebony coated/orange-eyed brother, loved the older cat! I would catch the baby, with his arm around his brothers, neck, looking at me as if to say, don’t you take my brother away! Those two were so stunning together, people sometimes thought they were dolls! I love my clownish friend, a very different personality from his older bro. I have to admit I still miss Chocolate and today’s essay on your beloved Weimarruner brought it all back home. Another very inspiring story, Carl and thank you for sharing it with us. I look forward to the day, when you bring yourself a new puppy home!

    Best regards, always! susanne

    • First of all thank you so much for writing….I missed your great writing and perceptions and observations. Seventeen is an extraordinarily long life and yet it doesn’t really matter. In a way, it becomes even more difficult because they’ve been with one for such a substantial percentage of one’s life. I’m not sure I’ll ever have another dog full-time just knowing the sort of commitment I feel compelled to make but foster-caring is a great middle-grown and I’m not sure I would do well with a puppy. Yeager was six when I adopted him and that was perfect! Thank you so much for writing susanne, appreciate it.

  5. Wonderfully written Carl, I have never meet Smokey either but somehow there are so many of us that feel like we do. He showed us so much love as did Beth, her dedication to him was pure love. Thank you both for sharing your experiences and like I know, these wonderful souls come in to our lives to teach us all what we are indeed capable off. I did have the pleasure of meeting Beth once and I know we’ll see each other again, even if we live in opposite direction of the Atlantic. Thank you again for this amazing account of Smokey and Beth’s many years together.

  6. Thats was a truly wonderful heart felt writing thank-you..i had never met Smokey bear but sHared his sweet persona through Beths eyes and heart…he had the best Mum for sure…a match made in heaven <3

  7. Carl, that was so touching. Beth is a lovely person (we have been friends for many years now!) and Smokey was so blessed to have lived his life in her loving care. As a shelter volunteer, I am too often exposed to the cruelty people have inflicted on these innocents. It warms my heart to read stories of animals who are well-loved to the very end of their lives. Bless you both.

  8. Carl, I am so glad you wrote this about Smokey. I, like many others, also felt like I knew Smokey even though I had never met him. My friend, Beth, always posted such lovely stories and pictures about Smokey. I could tell he was such a wonderful companion, and they truly had a great connection and love for each other. And even though I had never actually met Smokey, I was very sad when I heard of his passing. You have done a wonderful job telling their story.
    I have also read about your Yeager. My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss, but glad you had so many wonderful years (though never enough) with him and that things ended the way that they should. It is heartwarming to know there are people like you and Beth in this world who truly love their furry companions right to the very end.
    I have lost quite a few kitties when they were in their golden years. Some to Kidney disease, some to cancer. When I lost my Tigger to cancer, my heart was so broken that I had a hard time adopting again. Then my son reminded me of all the wonderful memories I would have missed out on if I hadn’t adopted Tigger. It wasn’t long before I adopted two more kitties. They are brothers and will celebrate their 6th birthday in a couple of weeks. They are such a blessing, and I love them so much. But all my kitties from the past will live on in my heart forever. Gone but never forgotten. And I am sure that is how it is with Beth’s Smokey and your Yeager.
    Thank you again for sharing your stories, and also this wonderful touching story about Beth and Smokey.

  9. Dear Carl, Thank you so much for this heartfelt tribute to Smokey so beautifully written with the sweetest photos. I had the honor of meeting Beth and her dear husband Fred in March of 2011 when we all visited the PAWS Elephant Sanctuary in San Andreas California. They were both so very gracious in listening to me talk nonstop about the elephants and my dog Abbers. They told me all about their sweet fur family including Smokey and i was touched deeply and felt an instant kinship with them. You don’t meet very many people with such devotion to their furry family in this day and age… well at least in my world that has sadly been the case. I was also touched with your experience with your dear Yeager, what an amazing soul he was. I want you to know that by sharing this story about Smokey and Yeager i really feel it will undoubtedly help others out there who are going through this similar situation and i thank you for that! Blessings to you Carl, -Marcia Stephens

    • I sure hope it helps others – that’s the purpose. It can be an isolating experience and without expressions of support for the decision to help senior animals, it can be confusing. I’ve heard of the Elephant Sanctuary and seen the documentary on it – which is so stirring. Someday I hope I can make it there. In any event, I appreciate your writing.

  10. Carl l loved reading your story about Smokey Bear.l only knew Smokey Bear through Facebook.Beth is my lovely friend.l always loved looking at Smokey’s pictures because l would always see the love in his eyes for Beth.What a beautiful dog.Your story is so beautiful it made me cry.

  11. Thank you, Carl, for writing such a beautiful tribute to Smokey, and my dear friend, Beth. I fell in love with Smokey through Beth’s photos and stories of him. I find such love between humans and their furry companions to be so very inspiring and touching.

    I lost one of my dogs, Bailey, in August of 2012. I had adopted Bailey when he was 2 1/2 from a family who could not provide the love and care that he deserved. Bailey worshiped the ground I walked on for 10 precious years. I adored him in return. He was a Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise mix and my little shadow. Bailey developed diabetes about two years before he passed away. I checked his blood sugar multiple times a day, and gave him his insulin injections twice a day. Although I’m sure it was painful, Bailey tolerated the shots bravely, and with a seeming understanding that I was injecting him for his own good. Bailey was also incontinent, and he endured the indignity of wearing diapers with grace.

    My other dog, a little 12-year-old Shih Tzu named Gizmo, has not been the same since his best friend passed away. Gizmo used to be fearless with Bailey at his side, but now he has severe separation anxiety. In the past, when I would leave my home, Gizmo and Bailey would curl up together in a chair, always a comfort to each other. But now, Gizmo can’t tolerate being left alone in my apartment. I take him most everywhere I go. Luckily, I can bring him with me to my ‘job,’ caring for my grandson. When I can’t bring him with me, I have wonderful friends who will care for him while I’m gone. As long as he has a loving human to care for him, he is fine while I am gone.

    I send you my deepest sympathy on your loss of Yeager. I can understand the pain of losing a beloved, loyal friend and companion.

    ~Susan

  12. Carl, this was such a lovely story, thank you for writing it. I knew how much Smokey was loved. I knew Beth and Fred were giving greatly of their time for Smokey in the end, and I knew it was a sacrifice for love. But your story really opened a window to see how much love was given both ways. That is so important for people to understand. As I think back through my life on caregivers I have known, to both animals and humans, I know none of them would trade the time and effort given, as the love and satisfaction received in return is so much greater than any sacrifice. It seems these times at the end, when people and animals are so dependent on others, are the most special times, as we seem to be more present in each moment. Thanks again for sharing your story, and Beth’s and helping others see it is all worthwhile in the end.

  13. Memories of our pets will always stay with us and I know you will always remember Yeager. Here’s a link to my very short story about a puppy named Scotty, memories from my childhood: http://marygilmartin.wordpress.com/2013/08/16/dogs-a-puppy-named-scotty/

  14. Missing him….today would have been Smokey’s 17th Birthday. Carl, I thank you from my heart for this beautiful article. I come back and read this often…..what a beautiful spirit he had…

  15. One year ago….I miss you, Smokey. I will always miss you..

  16. Carl, your beautiful writings of your Yeager….my Smokey….new adventures with your Hudson…they touch the hearts of so many of us. I hope that book about/for your dear Yeager is coming along….I know it is already written in your heart.

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