The following is a feature story on Erin that ran in the Savannah Morning News one month after her passing. The article was reprinted a few weeks later so I was doubly thrilled as it's very unusual for an story to be printed twice by the same publication. Erin's story was cast wide via the internet and Bark Magazine contacted me about penning an extended version of her tale, the finished work was featured in their digital magazine and can be found online. This was written with much sorrow and pain but these words are the beginning of my path to healing.
Remembering the charmed life of Erin, the Springer spaniel
Erin entered a man's life, then conquered Savannah ... and the world
Posted: September 15, 2010
David Michael Smith didn't know much about raising a puppy, but he knew he was ready to learn. He wanted to raise a true companion, and to give the pup all the experiences the world had to offer. He wanted a dog who could go everywhere he would go, and he knew that was going to take some work.
But first he had to find just the right dog.
When he went to look at a litter of Springer spaniel puppies, Erin cried out to him. All of the puppies were yelping and yearning for his attention, but he kept noticing in particular one little bundle of liver and white fur. He took her home that day, and what a match it proved to be.
The first three years of Erin's life was typical of any dog's life, playing fetch, wrestling with canine pals, lounging in the sun and, of course, chasing squirrels. What wasn't quite typical, however, was Erin's extraordinarily calm center.
David was offered a job in Germany and found a way to bring Erin along. For 18 months David took Erin everywhere he went, and she sniffed her way across a dozen countries. She took an Amsterdam canal boat tour, frolicked in the Swiss Alps, walked in the footsteps of Alexander the Great in Pella, Greece, strolled the Heidelberg Christmas market, and wandered the World War I battlefields of Verdun, France.
When David's job ended, so did Erin's adventures in Western Europe. But that turned out to be just fine, because the best was yet to come.
Erin was 5 years old when David realized she would be a wonderful therapy dog. Obedient and possessed of an extraordinarily even temperament, friendly demeanor and a loving, comforting nature, She had all the traits of a successful service animal, the certification tests posed little challenge and Erin's stint as a therapy dog was under way.
Hospice work was Erin's first job. She visited the terminally ill, adults and children alike.
Erin had an uncanny ability to disarm most people who encountered her. Gazing into her soulful, gentle eyes, even people who might not be that comfortable with dogs fell in love.
Among those she converted included the congregation of a major Savannah church, who permitted Erin to join the congregation for the morning service. She laid on the floor beside David's feet, and often took a nap. The folks who went to church with Erin didn't mind.
Erin's church duties expanded; she became a door greeter, and she even had a short stint working with the children's worship program.
David was approached with the idea of letting her appear on stage in a production of "The Miracle Worker." The drama department heard about Erin through the grapevine, contacted David and arranged an audition. She won the role of "Belle," the Keller family dog.
After each performance, when the cast lined up to greet the audience, Erin was right there alongside her co-stars. Hundreds of people filed by to pet her or pay a compliment.
On Aug. 16, David lost his companion Erin, who passed away from complications of diabetes. His friends and family gathered around him, and his Facebook page was covered with wishes for comfort.
David is still struggling to come to terms with Erin being gone, but he says, "I'm so proud of Erin's achievements - world traveler, therapy dog, church attendee and stage performer - but I take the most pride in what kind of dog she was inside. It's hard to imagine a living creature with more affection, loyalty, and passion for life than Erin."