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Memories of Smokey
October 21, 2020. In memory of my little black puppy Smokey. Smokey came into my life on Friday September 15, 1967, the day after my seventh birthday. I'm guessing he was 8 or 10 weeks old; whatever age puppies can leave their mothers. I only remember he was very small and all black. Smokey was brought to our house by my brother and his girlfriend. As I write this I am sitting in the same spot I was that night when Smokey came to our house.

I did not know at that time that they brought Smokey to the house for me. I thought he was my brother's girlfriend's puppy and they just brought him to visit. We sat at the kitchen table and Smokey played at my feet; a puppy full of life. When the discussion came around to him staying with us I knew even at my young age my parents would never let me have a puppy. So I did not even consider this a possibility. I do not remember how the discussion went but Smokey ended up staying that night with us and become our puppy. My brother and his girlfriend asked me what name I would give him and because I had never considered adopting a puppy I had no ideas. Either my brother or his girlfriend came up with Smokey. It sounded good to me so his name became Smokey. I asked my aunt recently if she remembered Smokey and she said yes. She also told me my mother was very upset with my brother for bringing a puppy to the house.

Unfortunately Smokey's life was very short. I do not remember the date of his death but I believe it was sometime in October. I don't remember him being here for Halloween. He became ill and we took him to the vet. I don't know what he had I was only 7. We gave him the medicine the vet gave us but apparently it wasn't enough to help. Smokey had diarrhea and was vomiting. My mother placed him downstairs one Friday night and I remember thinking how cold it was down there for him. In hindsight all these years later I wish I would have stayed downstairs with him that night but I'm sure none of us thought he would not survive the night. The next morning when I got up to see how he was I found he had passed away on the landing at the bottom of the stairs. I am sure he was trying to get upstairs to be with us. I do not remember exactly how long Smokey was sick before he passed away. I'm guessing it was a week or so. It seems like all of a sudden he got sick, we went to the vet and then he died. I remember telling the kids at school my puppy had passed away. Not long after this my brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam and that consumed our family. Luckily my brother returned safe and sound. I only mention my brother going to Vietnam as Smokey was not forgotten but life quickly moved on. Smokey died in October and my brother was drafted in November.

I remember finding Smokey passed away like it was yesterday. The grief I feel today is as heavy as it was that morning over 50 years ago. I did not think about Smokey for many years after he passed away; decades in fact, just thinking about him would overwhelm me with grief. The thought of Smokey would make me burst into tears. But I never forgot Smokey. My father saved his little red collar and his leash for me and I have it to this day. I wish I had some of his fur and a photo of us but I don't. As far as I know we didn't even own a camera in those days. I wish my brother would have thought to bring a camera and take photos of Smokey and me that night but I'm sure nobody thought Smokey's life would be so short. I plan to have Smokey's collar and leash buried with me when my time comes. I started taking his leash and collar out of storage a few years ago; my only physical connection to my dear little puppy. It may seem strange that a grown man can break down in uncontrollable grief so many years later but when I first started handling Smokey's collar again that is what happened. I love you Smokey today as much as I did as a child all those years ago. I am so sorry your life was so short.

Although I do not have any photos of Smokey but can see him clearly in my mind's eye. The guilt I feel for not being able to help our little puppy when he depended on us for everything weighs heavy on my heart. I think about Smokey often these days and take his collar out from time to time and think about those days so long ago. I'm married now and live in the same house where I grew up and Smokey once lived. We recently adopted two kittens and this seems to have brought many of these memories of Smokey out of the closet in my mind where I packed them away all those years ago. Sometimes when I think of Smokey I will cry, not every time but sometimes.

My memories of Smokey include us running and playing in the back yard. I remember us visiting the neighbors. I remember Smokey's first night with us. He slept in my room on the floor and was crying so I lifted him onto my bed where he slept under the covers quietly next to me; a seven year old kid with his puppy. I do not remember everyday things but only bits and pieces of our life together. I was in second grade and I imagine Smokey must have been in the kitchen every morning with us as we had breakfast but I cannot remember that specifically. My mother was home during the day and worked as a cook for the dinner meal at a local nursing home so Smokey must have spent the day with her as my father worked at a gas station during the day. I do not remember specifically running home after school to be with Smokey but I must have. I do have specific memories of evenings after supper playing with Smokey in the living room as my parents watched television.

In the years following Smokey's passing I had many pets. They included turtles, fish, gerbils and parakeets. We never adopted another dog and my mother was afraid of cats. I have fond memories of the gerbils and parakeets. I used to take the gerbils out of their cage and let them run around my bedroom making a mountain from my blanket so they could run under and over it. They seemed to enjoy that. One gerbil lived 2 years to the day we brought them home and the other one passed away a week later. When we had the parakeets they were either riding on my shoulder or sitting in the bathroom in front of the mirror. We opened their cages in the morning and they would have the run of the house until night when we put them to bed.

I do not know where Smokey is buried. There was no pet cremation in 1967 that I know of. I never asked my father where he buried Smokey. My father passed away in 1981 so I will never know but at that time I still had not allowed myself to think about Smokey as it was still too painful for me so I never talked to him about Smokey. In hindsight I wish I would have asked him where he buried Smokey but it is too late now. I never talked to my mother about Smokey either and she passed away in 2017. I never thought I could talk to my mother of the pain I endured at Smokey's passing as my mother suffered her own pain in losing her first born child a daughter at the age of 8 and her first husband 3 years of later. My half-sister died in 1953 and my mother's first husband died in 1956. I recently sent a photo of Smokey's collar to my brother but we haven't talked about Smokey. I'm not sure I can without crying. My brother was 20 when he brought Smokey home, he's now 73 as I write this memorial.

March 6, 2022. I finally asked my brother if he remembered where Smokey came from. He said he didn't remember. I asked if he thought his girlfriend at the time had a dog that had puppies. He said although he couldn't remember where Smokey came from he was pretty sure his girlfriend didn't have a dog at that time. So Smokey's origins will remain a mystery.

Dear Smokey, I hope you have been happy running and playing in the light of God's brilliance with all the others who are there with you. I hope you have many friends there. I have never forgotten you and love you now as much as I ever have. I hope you remember me and have forgiven me for your short life. I trust that God's mercy will allow us to be together again if you desire it. I hope to see you again someday and maybe we can play together again. I send you all my love.

March 6, 2022. Dear Smokey, I think of you often these days. I have time driving between job assignments and so have time to reminisce and you are often who I think about. It's funny how certain events in your life stick with you and how they can sometimes feel like yesterday and other times you can feel all the years since they occurred.

Hello Smokey,
Well it's September 15, 2022 the day after my 62nd birthday. Do you remember 55 years ago today? This was the day in 1967 you came to live with us. It was the day after my 7th birthday. It was a Friday night when Mike and Barb showed up at our house with you. You played around my feet as I sat at the kitchen table. Everyone else was in the living room. I thought you were Barb's and that you just came to visit. It wasn't too much later the conversation turned to you staying with us. Even though I was only 7 I was hesitant to have you join our family. I knew Ma didn't' want to adopt another dog after Susie passed away and Dad was not a pet person. Although I loved you dearly and still do I wish you could have been adopted by another family that may have been able to look after you better and given you a long happy life. I believe you were happy with us but that illness you came down with took you so young. I'll never forget your first night with us when you were crying in my bedroom after all of us went to bed. I lifted you onto the bed and you slept quietly under the covers next to me that night. I wish I could re-live that night.

Did you greet Ma and Dad when they crossed over? I'm guessing not and I wouldn't blame you. Neither of them seemed to want much to do with you while you were here. But maybe there is forgiveness and everyone is happy to see everyone else when they arrive. Aunt Dorothy told me how angry Ma was at Mike for bringing you to the house. I don't know why Mike didn't ask Ma about it first. I wonder if you met Susie and if she told you she was part of our family also. I can't image how beautiful it must be there and only hope you've had a wonderful time. I suppose there is no sense of time in heaven and 55 years means nothing. I long to see you again and will be very happy when it happens.

We have a water dish for the kitties in the same place your water dish was. I hope you do not mind. There are actually 6 water dishes around the house for the kitties to use. The kitties have supper near where you ate your meals but they usually have breakfast downstairs in my bedroom. The room wasn't there when you were here. We added it in 1972. Uncle Link did the work and also remodeled the kitchen at the same time. Ma didn't like how she had he kitchen changed around and regretted having it done but was stuck with it that way. A few years later in 1975 when we had the fire she had the kitchen changed back to the way it had always been. I sometimes wonder if you had been here when we had the fire if you would have made it out. Our parakeet Pete did not make it out. I buried Pete behind the garage. Ma and Dad got out just in time as the firefighters arrived. Ma told me the firefighters went into the house and came running out just as it went up. Sounds like they just barely made it out themselves. The neighbors came to school and brought me home when it happened.

I guess I'll let you go for now. I was thinking about you today and wanted to write a few lines. Dad saved your collar and leash for me. I keep it in my dresser. I take it out sometimes and think about our time together. There's a 3 Dog Night song with a verse that goes "We were living a time meant for us". When I hear this song I believe that the time we spent together was "A time meant for us". Goodnight Smokey, I love you and miss you very much. God Bless You.

February 29, 2024. Hello Smokey. How are you? Very happy I hope. I think about you often these days. About 3 weeks after I last wrote to you we had to send our kitty Lexi over the Rainbow Bridge. She was only 4 years old. It turned out she had heart disease. Her heart disease was undetected and was a surprise to us all. Her back legs became paralyzed Friday night October 7, 2022. I rushed her to the vet and then to an emergency hospital. She stayed overnight. They called me early Saturday morning to tell me Lexi had not made any progress. All of us went to visit her. The doctor told us her prognosis and it wasn't good. Although her mind appeared alert, she recognized us as soon as she entered the waiting room we were in, her body was dying. We made the decision to relieve her from this situation. She passed away quietly at 11:30 am, Saturday October 8, 2022. The worst day of my life since you passed away. I miss Lexi so much and think of her every day. She was always with me. I wonder if you've met Lexi. I hope you have and have become very good friends. I hope to spend eternity with both of you. I'll let you go for now. If you see Lexi tell her Hello for me and that I miss her very much. I love you.

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