Saturday, March 3rd....
Today is the biggest annual event and fundraiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.
It just so happens that today is the day that Smokey will be surrendered back to the school for final training.
We are ready to leave the hotel for Walk-a-thon. Today is bittersweet for us because we know that this is our last day with Smokey. Doesn't he look spiffy in his bright green Southeastern Bandana? The pups don't have to wear their service jackets today - it's a fun day for them, and they are officially OFF DUTY...
These are the buses from Southeastern that provide transportation from the host hotel to the Walk-a-thon event a few blocks away. Great advertising - and pretty cute pictures too!
Greg and Smokey relax at a beach-side cafe for a cup-o-Joe and a bagel. Smokey tries to find some shade. It's only March but it's already getting hot and humid in St.Petersberg...and it feels just like home!
Smokey...he always knows where the food is.
A quick photo at Vinoy Park. It's a beautiful location, right on the water.
The marina that is adjacent to Vinoy Park. It's a beautiful day, the sun is shining and people are gathering for the day's activities.
Getting ready for the walk. This photo is by Cindy Weatherby, a member of St.Petersberg chapter of the D.A.R.
A few of our Houston bunch with puppies that are being turned in today. From left, Carol and Ellie Annatrella (with Addy), Eileen and Jenni Scamardo (with Lou-Lou), Melissa and Greg David (with Smokey).
And the walk begins. With all the people and dogs present, Smokey is beyond excited... and foaming at the mouth. Here, he is sporting a full beard of foam. There are thousands of people that turned out for this event, and almost a thousand dogs. Southeastern raised about $450K over the weekend!
Above are some more Houston friends --- Hannah Kelly and her mom Amy are new raisers that are picking up their first puppy after the walk-a-thon today.
It was a beautiful venue walking on the paved sidewalk alongside the water.
Here, Greg walks with Eileen and Jenni Scamardo.
The finish line! The pups are thirsty, as are we.
We finally got to meet the family that sponsored Smokey. Toni and Jim Turner, and their grand-dog Bella, came out for the event and we were delighted to finally get to meet them. Toni and Jim's son, Parker, and his wife Emily were the donors of the funds for Smokey's naming rights. Smokey's namesake was Toni and Jim's chocolate lab, Smokey, who passed away in 2010.
Toni gets some time to snuggle with Smokey.
Smokey, Toni and Bella relax after the event.
Find me some shade! Please and thank you!
I love this photo. I wish it had turned out clearer.
Dad tells Smokey what a GOOD boy he is!
Posing at a very cool tree in Vinoy Park.
It's still hot!
Back at the hotel, we spend a few minutes taking some last photos with Smokey. In just minutes we'll be leaving St.Petersberg to drive over to Southeastern's campus in Palmetto. It's surreal that in just a few hours, he will be gone...and a big chunk of our hearts will go with him.
Our last self portrait. I love this picture too. Just look at that face...Smokey knows something is up. He is a beautiful boy.
Too big for mama's lap now, but we get a photo anyway. Tears are welling up in my eyes as I try to smile for the photo. I wonder, will giving up the next pup we raise be this hard? My heart is breaking.
We love you Smokey boy...
Forever and always...
You are going to make us proud.