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March 13, 2015 10:00 PM

You would never guess from Smiley’s sweet demeanor that he had a rough start.

Born with dwarfism and without eyes, this golden retriever lived at a puppy mill until he was 2 years old, reports CBS News. He was saved from this bleak existence by Joanne George, who rescued the dog shortly before he was due to be put down, and rebounded from his early life, quickly becoming a loving source of joy for George and everyone else who meets the canine.

“People were so drawn to him, so inspired by him.” George tells CBS News. “I realized this dog has to be a therapy dog – I have to share him.”

The owner kept her word and had Smiley certified through the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program in Ontario, Canada. Now the 12-year-old pooch spends his days visiting retirement homes and lending his time to a library reading program for children with special needs.

Blind to physical differences, Smiley is happy to overwhelm everyone with love, and this openness has led to some truly inspiring moments for George.

The owner fondly remembers a moment when the golden retriever befriended a man named Teddy, who was unable to communicate verbally.

“One day, Smiley put his feet up in front of [Teddy] and he started smiling and making noise,” George says. “All of the nurses rushed into the room and said they’ve never seen him smile – never seen any kind of reaction.”

After bring smiles to hundreds of people, the golden retriever is now reaching his golden years, but George says it hasn’t slowed the dog down.

“He came on my first date with me. He was my ring bearer at my wedding. Then I was pregnant,” she shares. “He’s changed my life.”

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