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"Where's My Smile?" (Inspired by my boy, Grey Bear)

The story behind this title is lengthy but if you've ever rescued (and fell in love with) a precious, desperately-in-need-of-love-dog you will get it.  Grey Bear captured the heart of every, single person who met him...especially mine.

I rescued this beautiful boy in 2011, in Vermont...he came with the name Grey Bear which sounded too wordy to me but I kept it since he was already six years old (I like people-names).  He had a horribly-rough start in life, chained to a doghouse for five years; his sixth one was spent at a humane society and though it's a wonderful one, he desperately wanted to find a safe, warm and loving home.  I frequently visited and took pictures of the adoptable dogs and kitties (and, of course, window-shopped) and when I came upon this precious guy, my heart stopped---he was so frightened and shy but so captivating...amazingly, he allowed me to take him for a walk.  I drove home, obsessing over him, and returned to the shelter a few days later for another walk...he was a bit less reticent but still so cautious and afraid.  The women who work there know me well and suggested I bring Grey Bear home for a foster sleepover (they knew exactly what they were doing).  The first night went perfectly, he was so happy to be around other dog-friends (certainly more comfortable with them than humans) and even ate his dinner in front of me which no one had ever seen him do.  While hiking the next morning, he broke off my leash which turned into a heart wrenching, 34-day search and in the middle of December.  Devastated, I spent every waking hour distributing posters, heating up meals and placing them where I did spot him through binoculars a few times (as did the neighbors) but to no avail, he didn't know what it meant to come to someone.  I will spare all of the details as they're endless but finally, one evening, my dear-huge-hearted-animal-loving-friend, Lesley, saw a show on catching an elusive dog---with a long catch-pen that had a gate at the top, attached to a rope that fed through the closed end.  We gathered up all of the materials the following day (all generously donated) and completed it right at dusk as Grey Bear was coming down for his dinner---we had a brief sighting but he quickly slithered into the woods.  We planted a baby monitor close to his 'dining room', its component was in the living room---the stage was set. My heart was pounding...oh, he just HAD to come in, it was viciously raw, well below zero and sleet was on its way; I couldn't bear it. But we had a sure-fire plan: my friend would be wrapped in a sleeping bag, holding the end of the 300 ft rope...I was inside, next to the monitor, in the dark...when I heard his footsteps through the little speaker, I would quickly flick my flashlight on and off signaling to her that he 'was in' (the feeding spot was far enough into the pen that he couldn't have possibly run back out through the gate in less time than it took to pop it closed with the rope...we'd done several test-runs!)  We breathlessly waited and within the hour, I heard him coming down...paws crunching on the icy leaves, his tags clanging and then the frantic slurping of meatloaf (made special for the Great Capture).  I popped my flashlight, she pulled the rope and I ran out to hang onto it so she could enter into the pen (she'd fashioned a secret entrance).  Grey Bear acquiesced, allowed her to attach his leash and quietly followed us into the house---I couldn't believe I was seeing him---lots of happy tears!  He was clearly as grateful and relieved as we were but so very weary from runnin'.  His muzzle was full of quills, he was extremely skinny and obviously weather-beaten.  I had a cozy bed all set by the wood stove and served him a big, Vermont-style supper.  I wrapped myself around him and slept there all night.  A miraculous ending!  This is an extremely long story, I know, but it needs to be told to make clear, the reason for the title of this page...

Grey Bear was a complete gentleman---he had impeccable manners, was so gentle and very reserved. He was a striking animal---unbelievably agile and strong with markings like a deer-in-winter, a 16" long tail and velvet-like ears.  Amazingly, he soon became quite relaxed and the perfect addition to the family rather quickly...he especially loved his dog brothers and sisters.  One morning, a whole other side to his personality appeared---he woke up, flopped over, all fours went into the air, and he literally threw his head back and smiled...hugely!...and stayed like that for perhaps a full minute, I just couldn't believe it!  All dogs can be clowns but I had no clue Grey Bear had this kind of behavior in him...he was a new man.  This became a daily performance...what a way to start the day!  One morning, I opened my eyes and he was lying on his side, looking right at me (I know he was waiting to do his thing)...he didn't budge so in my dopey dog-mom voice, I said "where's my smiiiile?!" and he proceeded to flip onto his back and shoot me the best one EVER.  From then on, he smiled on command, sometimes more than once...I'd laugh SO hard which obviously made him proud.  Then he'd flop back over, clear his throat and revert to his usual, genteel self.  Just hilarious.  He always made ME smile, too...

Grey Bear, most sadly, succumbed to cancer this past summer (2017) and with his typical valor and grace. I miss him just desperately but he is my inspiration for the new addition to my business, Where's My Smile?; somehow, this helps keep him with me.  I want to encourage people to consider a session with their seniors (or beloved friend of any age)...and not to wait.  Many of us have opened our hearts and homes to animals in shelters and missed out on the puppy/kitten stage  but adopting an older friend is one of the greatest gifts we can give.  Our devices are loaded with with pictures of our beloved beasties, (and I LOVE my iPhone) but there's still nothing like a professional portrait, thoughtfully and carefully made, that tells the once-in-a-lifetime story of you and your best friend...