“She was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “So we started talking slowly after that. I found where she sat so I’d find a reason to kind of get up and take a little break, just to talk to her.”

The couple, who enjoyed traveling and cooking, had been excited about the development going up across the street because it would include a grocery store.

“We used to like to try to out cook each other, which made for really good meals all the time,” Ridenhour said.

Their lunch that day was one of those collaborations: She’d bought the soup the day before and he decided grilled cheese sandwiches would be the perfect accompaniment.

“It was a normal day, it was Sunday, kind of gearing up to go to work on Monday,” said Ridenhour, who said Smith was excited about work because she’d started a new position at Tenet in human resources.

The day after the collapse, Ridenhour said he discovered their other dog, Lucky, had been found alive and unhurt. He said Lucky could usually be found at Smith’s feet.

Ridenhour said the world lost someone special when Smith died and he wants people to know about her: “She was heaven on earth — just the embodiment of happiness and life and love and everything that’s good.”

“I don’t even think tragic is a fair enough word,” he said.


Associated Press writer Jake Bleiberg contributed to this report