By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
A pint-sized dog that captured the hearts of the World War II generation has wiggled her way into a connection with Portales and Eastern New Mexico University.
Bill Wynne, author of the book “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” about a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky that Wynne trained while overseas in World War II, was in Portales recently to tape footage at KENW-TV about his experiences.
According to Duane Ryan, director of broadcasting at KENW, the station taped segments of Wynne telling the dog’s story. The segments will be used in a documentary about the famous mascot dog that entertained troops with tricks, pulled telephone wire through culverts and became the first “therapy dog,” visiting troops in the hospital. Ryan said some footage would be in episodes of “Creative Living” and “You Should Know,” PBS programs produced at KENW.
Wynne, a photographer in the Air Force, first met the 4-pound Smoky in New Guinea. A soldier found the little dog trapped in a foxhole and brought her back to camp. The soldier knew Wynne was a dog-lover and tried to sell her to him but they couldn’t agree on the price. A few days later the price got right for Wynne when the soldier needed a stake in a poker game, Wynne recounted to the Portales Rotary Club.
Wynne, who has trained dogs most of his life, said that characteristics of aggresiveness while being controllable and curious are what he looks for in a dog to train.
“A lot of breeds can’t qualify for all that,” he said.
Wynne taught Smoky to walk a tight rope blindfolded and parachute for a photo in Yank magazine. He also took the canine on photo scouting missions above enemy territory.
Wynne went on to work in Hollywood for a time with Smoky as he appeared in numerous movies and TV shows.
Eventually after Smoky died, the former NASA technician and photographer/reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer authored the book.
“We’ve always felt this should be a movie,” Wynne said of Smoky’s life, and he hopes the documentary will help in that effort.
Wynne said he loved his visit to Portales and is glad his friend Ronnie Birdsong, vice president for university relations and enrollment at ENMU, convinced him to come. The two knew each other through attending the Yorkshire Terrier National Rescue group’s annual ball in Nashville.
“We got to talking at the dinner and she learned a lot more about Smoky,” Wynne said. “She got us in touch with KENW to explore a documentary.”
Birdsong, along with her husband John, has owned Yorkshire terriers for about 10 years. They have six dogs of their own and also house rescue dogs frequently — they have six rescue dogs arriving next week.
“I had seen a Yorkie a number of years ago and I just thought it was so cute,” Birdsong said.
Wynne traveled to Portales with a young Yorkie he calls Smoky Too tucked in a carry-on case. He said the flight from the Cleveland area where he lives was delayed and the little dog made the journey without complaint or incident.
Besides the trip to KENW and the Rotary Club, the pair made several other appearances on campus at ENMU and spoke to the K-9 officers at Cannon Air Force Base about the legendary Smoky.