Veteran's Rescue Dog Smokey Wins Pet of the Week: 'My Savior'

This week we've seen a golden retriever melt hearts after sharing a wedding dance with a bride and groom and a Labrador who had both eyes removed living his best life, bringing people joy online.

But as always, we've been looking out for our Newsweek Pet of the Week. Remember, if you think your pet could be part of our lineup, scroll to the bottom of this story to see how you can get involved.

Winner

Smokey. Reader submission — Matt Sandefur
Pictures of this week's Newsweek "Pet of the Week," Blue heeler mix Smokey, whose owner Matt Sandefur said always lets him know that everything is going to be OK. Matt Sandefur

Our top dog this week is Smokey, a Blue heeler mix who lives in Kokomo, Indiana, with her owner Matt Sandefur.

Disabled Army veteran Sandefur fought in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. After receiving an honorable discharge, he, his wife, and children moved to Indiana to start their dream life. But things did not go as expected, and in August 2005, Sandefur was hit by a drunk driver while on his motorcycle, leaving him with serious injuries that included a broken neck.

Not long after this, his marriage broke down and Sandefur turned to drugs—a path that would eventually lead to him spending some time in prison.

He got clean in May 2019 and eventually moved into a stable home of his own. "I was alone and wanted a puppy since I can't work," Sandefur told Newsweek. When he saw Smokey advertised by a rescue group in February, he had to meet her.

"I drove four hours to meet her and when I did she came running towards me, jumped into my arms, and peed all down my shirt," recalled the thrilled owner. "I knew that instant she was my savior."

Since the pair met, they haven't spent more than a few hours apart, and Sandefur said that Smokey has changed his life.

"I suffer from several mental health issues. The last few months have been extremely difficult, but miss Smokey always has her way of cheering me up and making me smile," he said.

Smokey's love and support have helped Sandefur thrive, and he said that she always knows how to make things better. "She'll find a way to sneak up on me and put her chin on my chest, or lay on my foot, just letting me know it's going to be ok," he said.

Finalists

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Our first finalist this week is the adorable Lucky. A West Highland terrier, the 7-year-old pup has lived with owner Josie Loconti in Toms River, New Jersey, for two years.

A fan of squeaky toys and long walks, Lucky is a big part of the family. Owner Loconti told Newsweek: "What I love most about Lucky is how friendly he is with people and other animals. He's extremely laid back calm, cool, & collected at all times—I couldn't ask for a better pet."

Next up in our finalists this week is an unusual double act: Beagle hound mix Cricket and her new feline friend, 10-week-old Gizmo the kitten.

Around 4 or 5 years old, Cricket has been allowing the new arrival to cuddle up on the sofa in adorable footage. Living in a house full of rescues and special needs pets, owner Elizabeth Miller currently has 10 cats and five dogs: "They all love each other and get along," she told Newsweek. "Sometimes I have to say they do act like middle school kids: they have cliques, they have boyfriends and girlfriends. It is so funny to see."

Last but certainly not least, feline friends Sebi and Feather's laidback antics couldn't be left out. Both from rescue centers, the pair is often seen playing together at their home.

Do you have funny and adorable videos or pictures of your pet you want to share? Send them to life@newsweek.com and they could appear in our Pet of the Week lineup.