This is Ed, and I have some sad news to share.
A few months ago, Willie started to lose his appetite. We took him to the vet, and he was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer had progressed beyond treatment. So, we brought him home and spoiled him with treats and kept him comfortable and hugged him and loved him. I’m devastated to tell you that Willie died peacefully on December 7.
It is difficult to describe the bond that we had. It was like marriage in that we were truly equal partners. It was like the bond between a parent and a small child, because every minute of every day I knew where he was and what he was doing. It was like the bond between soldiers, because we stepped into harm’s way on a regular basis and survived because of trust and teamwork. When we were working together, we moved like one organism with six feet rather than two independent individuals.
Before I started working with Willie, my family moved through public spaces like a discombobulated wrecking ball. Back then, my children were toddlers. My wife had her hands full chasing two rambunctious little boys, toting all the gear that comes with small children, and dragging a blind guy on her arm all the way. After I came home from The Seeing Eye with Willie, everything changed. Willie and I could now take the lead and provide a target that the children could follow, which took a lot of pressure off my wife so she could bring up the rear and clean up any destruction that was left in our wake.
During the years we worked together, Willie and I walked many thousands of miles. We traveled the streets of the largest cities in North America. We hiked rugged mountain trails. We relaxed on the beach. We camped with the Cub Scouts. We crossed tens of thousands of streets safely. We went to the White House. We shared all the joys and sorrows and achievements and frustrations of a busy professional raising a family. Throughout it all, we were connected by a few feet of leather and an emotional bond that was stronger than steel.
I am grateful to the entire SAS family for welcoming Willie on campus with such warmth and enthusiasm. He loved coming to work here everyday. He was a gentle soul that brought joy into so many lives, and we will all miss him dearly.
I invite you to send a farewell message to Willie as a comment on this blog post. If you feel the urge to honor his memory please consider supporting The Seeing Eye. Over the past 86 years, The Seeing Eye has bred, trained, and placed more than 16,000 amazing dogs like Willie.
God bless and give your pup a hug for me,
Photos courtesy of the Summers family