Smoky the Uplifting Therapy Dog.
Smoky was not just a brave war dog. She also has the distinction of being the world’s first therapy dog for veterans suffering PTSD.
Corporal William (Bill) Wynne adopted Smoky when he was serving in New Guinea in 1944 with the 5th Army Air Force. Bill loved animals and had a special affinity with dogs. Smoky filled Bill’s downtime from his flying and photographic duties and gave him companionship and a purpose in keeping her safe.
He knew Smoky was smart and as he had some experience training dogs, Bill set about teaching Smoky basic obedience commands and other tricks. He would play the harmonica and Smoky would “sing” along and she also learned to “dance”. He taught her to play dead and not move even when prodded. She learned to walk a tightrope, ride a scooter, climb a ladder, jump through hoops, spell her name and run on a rolling barrel. Smoky even had a clown outfit to wear. Bill and Smoky often performed shows for his squadron mates at night and Smoky would perform tricks from her growing repertoire which not only entertained them but also raised their morale.
Bill came down with dengue fever and was admitted to a field hospital whilst in New Guinea. Smoky was smuggled in to Bill where she slept on his bed. The doctor in charge, Charles Mayo (of the Mayo Clinic), gave permission and the nurses then started taking Smoky on their rounds to cheer up other ill and injured soldiers. Unknowingly, Smoky had become a therapy dog and this career would continue during and after the war.
On recovering from the fever Bill was given some recuperative leave in Brisbane. Smoky accompanied him. They visited the Red Cross where the volunteers sewed Smoky a special coat from a card table cloth and attached the insignia of the 5th Air Force plus her corporal stripes. They were asked to visit and perform at some military hospitals in Brisbane, one of which was located at the present day Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, to boost morale.
After the war Bill and Smoky returned to the USA. Smoky was a hero and articles appeared in newspapers and magazines about her exploits in laying the communication cable under the airfield and her morale boosting visits to the field hospitals. Bill loved show business, so he, his new wife Margie and Smoky headed to Hollywood to train dogs for movie roles but it didn’t last long. With a new job at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, Bill and Smoky visited nursing homes and veteran’s hospitals performing their tricks. They toured Ohio doing live shows for children and later appeared in regular shows on television about dog training and entertaining audiences with their tricks. When the show was cancelled Smoky retired from performing and became a family pet. She died in 1957.
Bill passed away at the age of 99 in April, 2021. No doubt Smoky was waiting for him at the Rainbow Bridge.