Goodbye to Willie



Willie staring at me for attention
Willie staring at me for attention

If you have ever had a dog in your life, then you know what it is like to lose one. Willie came to us at age 14, unusual for a 105-pound yellow lab mix. He fast became the life of our household. He lumbered around the house, committed to whatever direction he was headed because turning around was for him like trying to turn a cruise ship in a canal. He had big feet like a puppy, as if he would eventually grow into them. His old age bark was more like a cough, but when it came to playing with the younger dogs, he could run, jump and spring back to the life he must have known years earlier.

Willie spent most of his time lying around the house, usually on the cool kitchen floor, underfoot so he was always in the middle of things. He had a voracious appetite, attacking his food with passion, a real foodie. He shed a lot, usually enough to stuff a pillow, so we would get him shaved in a lion cut, with a tuft at the end of his long tail that constantly wagged out of sheer joy at being alive. He loved when anyone would pet him, lying on his back, his front paws drawn up to his chest. If you stopped, he would swipe at you with one of those giant paws to keep it up.

Anyone who met him said he was a true gentleman, never whining or barking for attention, never interrupting if people were talking. Just sitting stoically, observing life around him. When I read the morning paper, he would lumber over, put his big head on my knee and just stare at me until I paid attention to him. He knew I couldn’t stand to ignore him.

Willie never complained, even after hyperextending his foreleg falling out of the SUV on to an asphalt driveway. He wore a metal cast and sounded like a peg leg pirate when he walked around the house. However, much like when older people fall and begin the long decline, his leg wound caused other problems that just snowballed.

We learned a lot from Willie – the meaning of true happiness, patience, appreciation, respect, all without him uttering a single word. He was 17 when we finally put him to sleep the other day, old for a dog that large. But he never realized how old he was. He only lived every day like it was precious to him, never taking his time for granted. Maybe he knew his life was growing shorter or maybe he simply knew every day was important regardless of your age. Either way, he lived his life as we should all live ours, and when the end came, he left us with a smile and thankful for being loved and appreciated.

We originally thought we would have him maybe a year, but he was with us for three when that accident occurred. On his last day, after five days at the vet, they brought him in to an examining room to be with me. He tried to wag his tail but had little energy to do it. He just lay there and I would pet him like always. If I stopped even for a moment, he would swipe at me with his big paw. He relished that kind of attention.

He finally fell asleep, relaxing his weary bones on what was always his favorite spot, the one in my heart that will never again be the same.

Goodbye sweet Willie.



  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Willie would have approved of this tribute to him Heck, I needed a good tear duct-clearing, and this sure did it for me.

  2. Milt- Beautifully written! I don’t care to count the number of dogs to whom I’ve had to say good-bye. Practice may make perfect, but not in this case. It never gets any easier. As I write this, over a year later I am still welling up over the loss of Duke, my phenomenal 106-lb Black Lab. One always thinks they cannot find another dog to compare with the one they have lost. After Duke left us, I adopted one of my sons’ dogs, Jake, a big Yellow Lab the same size as your Willie. At first, I hesitated at the thought of taking Jake for fear I could not stand to go through what I did with losing Duke. I realized, however, that it would be terribly selfish not to give Jake a chance at a good home. I think The Lord rewarded me for doing so, as he has been a pure joy. Jake came from the Vero Human Society, incidentally. So, I hope you will do yourself a huge favor, and adopt another dog. I guarantee it will lift your spirits sky high! With all my sympathy and admiration for the good life you gave Willie!

  3. Milt, I can hardly post this because of tears in my eyes. I will always remember Chris Wallace commenting about the loss of his dad on fox news. It went like this: Remember the sadness when I reported the loss of my father. I have more sad news. The loss of our our dog (I believe he was a yellow lab also) Then Chris says “When we have them, we always think we are taking care of them, and when we lose them we realize that they were really taking care of us. Thanksgiving was a very special day for me, time with my family. The thought was “this day is very, very special. The memory alone is one I will cherish. Then the thought–will there be another one? If not, I have been so blessed. This morning I read your post. With tears in my eyes, may I always remember to cherish the moments while we have them. You and Mark have touched my heart and for all of the bad in this world, please know that without Inside Vero and Beaisms we would be pretty much in the dark and never be afforded the truth. By the way, Willie has the same look on his face as my thirteen year old German Shepard (service dog) named Hero. And yes, I do realize how much he is taking care of me. Thank you for sharing Willy’s story. And please know how much we care.

  4. Milt- So sorry to hear you lost your pal. We never forget any of them, each one has a special place in our hearts.

  5. We are all better people for having read your tribute to Willie. I look forward to meeting him one day.

  6. My dear Mr. Higgins was lost to lung cancer many years ago (he was a Westie with all their attitude) and to save myself from just being overcome by the loss, I tried to be humorous and tell everyone I had been successful getting him off the cigarettes; but the dog just loved a good cigar and he would not get off them; hence lung cancer followed! Everyone laughed, but it was always to keep me from crying again and again. Particularly for those of us without children, or mate, our animals often take on even more importance and the loss and loneliness without their presence can be as profound as the loss of any child or close friend or beloved relative. I wish him peace at the rainbow bridge and you, Milt, and your family fond memories of such a loving fellow creature who shared your space and hearts.

  7. […] Editor’s note: My brother and his significant other are here for Thanksgiving from Asheville. They brought their 13-year old dog, Lady, with them because Lady is dying. It will be a tough week and Lady may never go home with them, so this isn’t the happiest of Thanksgivings. Those of you who cherish your pets can relate to this. Five years ago I wrote about a dog of my own who passed away. I want to share it as we gather to love each other, including pets past and present. Click here. […]

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