By Mark Ambrogi
Sandi Smith grew up wanting to be a mom, veterinarian and a musician.
“That was my childhood dream,” Smith said. “I got a D in zoology so, go figure I knew I was going to do well in that (veterinary school). But I’ve always loved dogs.”
Smith, 50, is able to combine her love of dogs and music to bring joy into the lives of senior citizens.
Smith, who has been singing and playing guitar since she was 7 years old, started performing with her dogs five years ago. The Carmel resident primarily plays at retirement homes and assisted living centers.
“That’s the kind of music I like to do,” Smith said. “It brightens their day. It’s a win-win. It’s good for me, good for the dogs and good for them. I don’t do the teenagers’ songs, so I can’t please them.”
Casper, 11, is a Maltese. Roscoe, 5, and Gus, 1, are Multipoos, a mixed breed of Maltese and toy or miniature poodle.
“Gus will go for one-month training on Jan. 4 to be officially an emotionally therapy animal,” Smith said.
Roscoe has previously gone through the training.
“My son, Spencer, is autistic, and that gave me the whole idea of getting them trained for therapy, because when my son is with the dog he gets calmer,” Smith said. “It’s made a world of difference for him.”
Smith performs many songs from the Songbook era. “You are my Sunshine” is a favorite of the seniors, she said.
Some centers prefer she just brings the pets on one day and sings on another.
“Some like the total package,” Smith said. “To some that can’t get out to the main area, I can go to their rooms and carry the dogs in.”
Smith said the seniors love interacting with the dogs.
“I just pass them around to each person,” Smith said. “They laugh and smile. It makes them happy.”
Spencer, 19, attends Midwest Academy in Carmel. His twin sister Shelbi, a Guerin Catholic graduate, is at the University of Dayton. Her oldest son Kyle, 20, is attending DePaul University.
Smith, a 1983 North Central High School graduate, studied music at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., graduating in 1988.
After college, she worked for hhgregg, which was then owned by her father, Gerald Throgmartin.
“I did not like it, so I slowly got into music, working at music studios, and I worked for an entertainment agency,” Smith said. “I started performing classical guitar. When my kids were little, that’s when I did the children’s shows.”
While Smith gets paid to perform, it’s more a labor of love.
“The entertainment fund that the assisted living centers have is not huge, and I’m not there to break their bank,” she said. “It helps me with the dogs’ grooming and the gas. I’m very inexpensive.”
While much of the music she does is from the 1940s and ’50s, she does sing some Creedence Clearwater Revival, Elvis Presley, James Taylor and Carole King songs. She also does some country songs from Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and can play the banjo as well.
“Today’s music is not my cup of tea,” she said.
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