The final post

97

Hey Folks,

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,

Ed

Photos courtesy of the Summers family

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Willie the Seeing Eye Dog

SAS Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology

Willie the Seeing Eye dog has been part of the SAS Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology team for four years. He helps Software Development Manager Ed Summers get around SAS Corporate Headquarters without breaking his neck. He plans to blog about his many adventures with Ed as they work to ensure that users of all abilities can succeed using SAS software.

97 Comments

  1. Michelle Proctor on

    I'm so sorry to hear about Willie, Ed. I know he became an important member of your family both at home and here on campus. We will miss him!

  2. Connie Marthinsen on

    I am so sorry to hear about Willie. My heart aches for you. What a magnificent tribute you wrote about him. It gave me chills to read it. The bond you two shared was truly amazing. The memories you two built together through trust and friendship will always be with you. Thank you for sharing Willie with your SAS family.

    Connie

  3. Such sad news that Willie has passed away. He truly was a gentle soul and such a hardworking and loyal guy. I will remember the sweet, vaguely concerned look he usually had on his face, as if he wanted to make sure everyone he encountered was ok :). He will surely be missed.

  4. Michelle Homes

    Hi Ed,

    What a lovely memorial. Thanks for passing on the news and sharing your memories. It was a pleasure to meet the famous blog writing Willie and yourself at SAS Global Forum in Washington, DC. Deeply thinking of you and your family on your loss.

    Kind Regards,
    Michelle (and my Labradors return many tail wags and licks for the hug)

  5. Willie,

    You were a "rock star"!! You were amazingly self disciplined, even when you were probably thinking "can't I just this one time Dad?". The impact you made on the life of your Dad and the family will be forever felt.

  6. Oh Ed, I am so very sorry to hear about Willie. I cannot imagine how big a hole he has left in your heart and that of your family. I know that he worked hard with you but suspect that he loved working at the same time. And I know he was loved by so many.
    My favorite image of you with Willie was during the first STEM Career Showcase when you were in the Daily Planet Theater with all the kids. Everyone understood the difference between when Willie was "at work" and when Willie was "off duty." You both were such fabulous ambassadors, and leaders, for this entire project.
    Thank you for letting us know about Willie. You all are in my thoughts
    liz

  7. I'm so sorry for your loss, Ed. This post is a beautiful tribute and really makes it clear what an impact he had on your lives -- you certainly had many wonderful adventures together! Sending love to you and your whole family!

  8. Tammi Kay George

    I am thinking of you and your family, Ed. Thank you, Willie. Thank you for all you did for Ed and from your SAS family as well.

  9. Celeste Cooper-Peel, MA, MCHES, E-RYT, CWHC, CYT
    Celeste Cooper-Peel on

    What an absolutely beautiful post and dedication to such a wonderful companion. There's a brighter star in the sky now as Willie continues to watch over.

  10. I worked with Willie (and you) during last year's Stem event at the Museum of Natural Sciences. He was such a great team member. I hope he is on the rainbow bridge, eating scooby snacks and napping in the sun.

  11. Thinking of you and your family during this time of sadness. I’m so sorry to hear the news of Willie’s passing. Though I only had the honor of working with him for a short time, Willie was as everyone above described so well; the gentle furry rock star that was always vigilantly by Ed's side. He'll be missed.

  12. Stephanie Smith on

    I am heartbroken to hear about Willie. For years I had wanted to give Willie a big hug and was so thankful that I was able to do that at his retirement party.... He was a special boy. Sending love to you and your family. Rest in peace Willie.

  13. I have such fond memories of Willie sitting beside Ed in conference rooms, patiently. Sometimes his dark nose would reach in my direction. I suspect he caught a whiff of my own dog. I also recall how he floated down the hallways with Ed in tow. Willie's fur moving gently, yet quietly. What an honor to have been in his presence. I'm sad for your loss, Ed and family.

  14. Cheryl Doninger
    Cheryl Doninger on

    Ed,
    What a beautifully written tribute to Willie. My heart goes out to you and your family for your loss! He was clearly well-loved and had an amazing life; can't ask for more. I will never forget sharing a flight with Willie to SGF and watching him ride the escalators in the airport. He was a truly amazing dog! He will always be part of our SAS family!
    Cheryl

  15. I'm very sorry to hear about Willie. He lived a long and full life, fuller than most because he had an important job to do, and he did it well.

    Joe

  16. So sorry to hear about Willie's passing but we can all take comfort in the fact that he had such a loving family for his entire life and never had to want for anything.

  17. Caroline Brickley on

    Indeed a wonderful tribute--thoughtfully written and eloquently expressed. I will always remember Willie walking regally along the hallways, and resting under a table in the café or in a meeting room. Who could forget his exciting post from Washington, DC?

  18. So sad to hear! He provided unconditional love to you and your family. I always enjoyed seeing both of you on campus. May you remember his happy kisses always!

  19. Tamara Shaffer on

    This is indeed very sad news. I am so sorry for your family's loss. I was in Cary a while back and saw Ed & Willie as they left the café in building F. I tried to catch up to introduce myself, but y'all were too fast for me. Thank you Ed for sharing Willie with all of us.

  20. Debbie Meadows on

    Ed and Family, I am heartbroken for you and your family for your loss of Willie. It was a true honor to work at SAS with Willie and you over the years. I will keep you all in my thoughts. Willie was such a special dog that so many of us were touched by his presence on campus. We were lucky to have known him. Rest in peace Willie. Thoughts and prayers for your family
    Debbie Meadows

  21. The whole of SAS has lost an amazing being. Would it be that we could all have such a positive impact on our coworkers and on the world as Willie did on us. Thank you for sharing this incredible tribute; our hearts and prayers are with you. God speed, Willie.

  22. Ed,
    I'm soooo sorry to hear about Willie. I got to see him in action at one of the first big STEM events in Raleigh. I was so impressed with how you 2 worked together. I'm so glad that you 2 had so many good years together. You and Willie are very inspirational to us all. Hugs to all.

  23. I was so sad to hear this. I will never forget the honor of riding with Willie in a limo at global forum, and all the dinners we had together. Made my entire trip! You couldn't have asked for a better companion.

  24. David Phillips on

    Thank you for sharing Willie's last story with us. I'm so sorry for your loss.

    Thank you, Willie, for taking such great care of our friend Ed for so long. You were an incredible dog.

  25. Steve Beatrous on

    I was fortunate to have had an office close to Willie's for 5 years. It was sweet that Willie let Ed use the office too.

    I loved bumping into Willie in the Hall, the cafe, the mail room and even the bath room. Losing Willie is big blow. I add my tears to the pool collecting around SAS campus in his honor. You're a good boy Willie.

  26. Willie, you were one of the best dogs in the world. I know Ed and his family are missing you like crazy. I hope that you know how much you helped teach folks how important a Seeing Eye Dog's job is. Ed, I am so sorry for the loss of your fur-baby. Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to love on Willie at his retirement party, and I am sending you and your family lots of prayers. Rest in peace, dear one.

  27. Oh Ed... I just saw you and your new dog today... and I did not know about Willie until just now. I am heartbroken for you. It's always so sad to lose a wonderful dog, and especially when that dog has shared so many adventures and been such a big part of our lives. My heart goes out to you. I am glad you have a new dog to allay your grief as you stride confidently on to new adventures.

  28. Ed, I am heart-broken by this sad news. My condolences to you and your family. I will miss seeing Willie in the neighborhood and reading about his exploits. I hope the memories of the many years you had together sustain you.

  29. Pam Cole

    So sorry to hear the news. Thank you for sharing the tribute Ed. Partner, friend and family. We loved having the opportunity to call him part of the SAS family. He will be very missed.

  30. I'm heartbroken for you and your family, Ed. The bond between any fur parent and fur baby is strong, but when the fur baby is a service animal, that takes the relationship to a whole new level that few will ever understand. I know you will miss your constant companion, and please know there are a lot of us sending you love, support and strength.

  31. I am so sorry for your, and your family's, loss Ed!! He was such a sweet, caring and smart dog, and made meetings so much more fun:) I must say that getting to hug him is the best birthday present I've ever gotten!!

  32. Carrie Santiago on

    My heart breaks for you and your family right now. All dogs are family, but Willie was so much more. What a wonderful tribute to such a sweet boy! He'll be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge...

  33. Ed, I'm sad to see Willie go. I remember from our accessibility training when I joined four years ago how we're not supposed to pet seeing eye dogs when they're working. But every time I saw him with you, I would have this irresistible urge pet him! I will miss Willie.

    I hope you find just as good a friend in your new partner.

    Berk

  34. Stephanie Tysinger on

    So very sorry about Willie passing. I always enjoyed witnessing the special relationship between Ed and Willie. What a great team they made!!!

  35. De' Watson-Irvine on

    Willie will live in SAS history and all SAS employee hearts. I agree with all the post, that Willie was a special dog although, I often just thought of him as a fuzzy employee who loved his job! I am sorry to hear of his loss, but blessed to have known him. Thank you for sharing him with us.

    De'

  36. Good bye Willie. You have made us better by knowing you. Now is your time to rest and romp with all your pals. Job well done.

  37. Eskie was there at the rainbow bridge to give Willie a big welcome home, we love our dogs like family and the loss is so deep. Rest in peace Willie your service to Ed will forever be appreciated.

  38. Donna Faircloth on

    Ed, I never told you this but I occasionally (not very often) rubbed Willie's head with my foot under the conference room table. He never once gave me away. He was a grand fellow, and I couldn't help but love him just like everyone else who knew him. My heart breaks over this sad news.

  39. Ed, I was always so happy to see you and Willie together on campus. I moved to Washington state after retiring so I just learned of your loss from Jennifer Appetta. I've lost dogs to cancer, too. It would be wonderful if dogs had longer lifespans! Willie had a great life with you.

  40. Caroline Quinn on

    Sam and I just learned about Willie's passing. I was fortunate to know Willie at SAS and have him as a neighbor. We are so sorry for your loss. The world is a better place because of Willie. He had an important job and he showed up every day for it. Please know that Sam and I are keeping you, your family and Willie's wonderful memory in our thoughts and prayers.

  41. Donna Strickland on

    I loved riding the elevator with Willie in Bldg J! It was all I could do to not reach down and give him huge hugs! Sending the hugs of a million angels your way Willie!

  42. I was fortunate enough to be able to enjoy watching Willie come in to building R everyday. So sorry for your loss.

    God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be.
    So He put His arms around you and whispered "come to me"
    A golden heart stopped beating hard working hands at rest.
    God broke our hearts to prove to us He only takes the Best.

  43. I am so sorry to hear of Willie's passing. I enjoyed all the visits you and Willie would make to my office. Willie would even stop to say hello when you were on your way somewhere else! I enjoyed seeing how well you worked together. He will be missed by many. My thoughts are with you and your entire family.

  44. Prasad Kulkarni on

    Wille you were the most adorable companion. I still remember the way you took care of Ed and being his true supporter. Ed, we will keep Willie in our prayers

  45. Charu Shankar

    I'm so sorry to hear about Willie. I met him when he came with you to Toronto. and he must be the sweetest soul I ever met. Praying for his soul and sending you lots of love and light...

  46. Carmen Homolya on

    Ed I'm really sorry to hear about Willie. I can't even imagine the loss you feel. He was very special and an amazing companion!

  47. My heart just broke. So many times I wanted to just go over to Willie and love on him. I'm so sorry for your loss Ed. I agree with others, Willie was truly loved and lived a full life. Rest in peace Willie.

  48. Ed, I am so, so sorry for your loss! A typical pet is so much a part of the family, but a spectacular companion like Willie is that and so much more. I know you and your family will miss him very much. Willie was fortunate to have lived and died surrounded by so much love and trust. I'm sure he will rest peacefully knowing that he did a great job taking care of you while he could.

  49. Kathy Council

    This is such sad news. I don't know what to say..... I will say that I was proud to have been part of your journey while you were at The Seeing Eye. You so faithfully blogged your daily experiences while you found the perfect dog. I've told many people about the experience and then the experience of having Willie come to meetings and even SAS Global Forum.

    Losing a pet is so hard for the entire family. Thank you for all the love you and your family showed him throughout the journey.

  50. Robin Papworth on

    It's so wonderfully obvious that the blessings went both ways between Willie and his family. Truly the way it should be. RIP sweet Willie.

  51. Aiman Zeid

    So sorry for your loss, Ed. It was remarkable to see Willie in action over the years on Campus. What a nice memorial for such a faithful soul.

  52. So sorry to hear about Willie. I was always amazed to watch Willie in action with you! It was like watching a well oiled machine!
    I still can't believe how Willie would curl up under a seat in an airplane. I thought....no way will he fit.....but Willie knew exactly what he was doing and slipped under the seat like he had done it 100 times before....oh....he had! 🙂
    RIP Willie!

  53. This just breaks my heart! I loved seeing Willie in R and seeing how beautiful he was. I would forget he worked here sometimes, and then Surprise! There he was, and it was nice to see such a beautiful guy on campus. I would not go up and hug him and gush over him because I knew he was working, but it was so hard not to!!! I loved riding the elevator with him and seeing him in your office. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers, and I'm sure Willie will be waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge.

  54. Gale Adcock

    Willie was always a welcomed guest along with you at the HCC, Ed. I always wanted to hug his sweet neck and had to remind myself that he was here on business. I can't imagine how much you miss him.

  55. I am so sorry to hear about Willie, Ed. What a remarkable life he was able to lead, full of love and accomplishment! I have no adequate words to express my sorrow for you and your family for his loss.

  56. Hi Ed
    I'm in the South African office and I chanced upon your tribute to Willie and it made me wish that I had known about your blog so that I could follow from a distance the stories and amazing rapport that the two of you obviously shared. When you watch working dogs doing the work that they're trained for and in that process working with someone that they love and trust it is a rewarding and humbling experience. It's clear from the posts above that there was a great deal of respect for you and for Willie, for what you both accomplished and for what you learnt from each other. I am so sorry for your loss and I wish you the time and the strength that you need to readjust to life without him at your side. May you get through the broken-heartedness and into the space where you can celebrate his life with you with a smile in your heart - he was so worth it!! Ann.

  57. I met Willie and struggled to do the appropriate thing which was NOT pet and love on a service dog in harness. He was a beautiful dog and I grieve your loss. With the bond I have to my rescued pits ... and they don't have the function Willie did ... I almost can't imagine the bond you'd have had towards Willie. Good luck getting thru the tough transition time ... to the point where Willie will always be a positive and fond memory.

  58. Chris Dorrenbacher on

    I had the pleasure of encountering the big guy on a regular basis while you two were in Building J and he was a real gent. It's going to be hard. My prayers are with you.

  59. Trent Smith

    Ed, even with all the great assistive technologies you work on, it was clear that nothing could top the assistance that came from the furry, gentle soul curled up in your office. I'm very sorry for your loss.

  60. Chelsea Nielsen on

    Thank you, Ed, for sharing these beautiful memories and pictures with all of us. Willie was such a sweetheart. What an amazing life, full of adventures! His SAS family will always love and remember him.

  61. I am sorry to hear about the loss of your best friend, Ed. I loved the years that I got to work with him on the hall. I always made a point to sit next to you in meetings just in case Willie brushed up against my leg. He was such a faithful worker and patient listening to all of our exciting meetings. SAS has lost a great employee and mascot. Hugs...

  62. Denise Thompson on

    Awww.. my heart is breaking. I can't even imagine what this must feel like for you and your whole family. Thank you for sharing your news and sharing Willie with all of our hearts here at SAS. I feel blessed to have known Willie and seen him interact with everyone on campus on a daily basis. What a lucky dog and lucky man to have a bond so great. He will be missed.. Hugs

  63. Jennifer Evans on

    I am so sad to hear this news, Ed. My heart breaks for you and your family. Willie was an amazing creature and we are all the richer for having him cross our paths in life. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute. I am very sorry for your loss.

  64. Susan Kahler

    Dear Willie- Thanks for taking such good care of Ed and for bringing joy to the SAS family. You are an amazing angel who touched so many of us with your love and devotion. I am glad to have shared a hug with you at your retirement party. All of your SAS family misses you!

    Dear Ed- You have my deepest sympathy over the loss of your dear companion Willie. I wish you much peace and comfort in the upcoming days.

  65. I'm so sorry to hear about Willie's passing, Ed. It's always incredibly hard to lose a pet, and clearly the bond that the two of you had was well beyond the typical owner/pet partnership. This was a wonderful tribute to your friend, who now runs free and without pain on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

  66. Mary Ann MAgann on

    I'm sorry for your loss of a close friend. He will be missed!
    Here is something a friend shared with me at the loss of a beloved pet.

    From time to time, people tell me, "lighten up, it's just a dog," or, "that's a lot of money for just a dog." They don't understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog." Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog."
    Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog," but I did not once feel slighted. Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog," and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
    If you, too, think it's "just a dog," then you will probably understand phases like "just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise." "Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy. "Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person. Because of "just a dog" I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog" but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment. "Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.
    I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog"
    but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a man." So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog." just smile, because they "just don't understand."

    Roca (C) 2006

    Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine, February 2006

      • Henry after my husband's brain injury and he's been there through Russell's death and recently my father's. But we all learned so much about accessibility and how to overcome disability from Ed and Willie. I'm looking forward to helping the Seeing Eye Foundation forge more special bonds like Ed and Willie!

  67. Willie always brings a smile -- and the pictures are wonderful. I feel lucky to have taken a walk through San Francisco with Willie -- and to have seen him in the halls and in "his" office. Willie (and Ed) inspire me to understand the world in a different way. Run with the wind, Willie!

  68. What a beautiful tribute. I've missed seeing him around campus. I know the emptiness, still feel like they're there. You swear you still see him walk by.

    Prayers for your family's loss.

  69. M-E Eddlestone on

    Ed, My heartfelt condolences on the loss of Willie, your intrepid companion, loyal friend and special family member.

    I'm sure few people understand the depth of the bond you shared or the depth of your loss, but do know how much he was respected, admired and loved by his SAS family. No matter where the two of you went, you left a wake of smiles and joy. He definitely made the world a better place and we are all better people for knowing him.

    Willie's blog has been a favorite - I loved hearing about your adventures together. I'm glad his was a life well spent and filled with so much love.

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

  70. Ohhh! Thank you so much for sharing your personal story in such a touching way; it somehow
    makes the news easier to hear. We are all better for having the privilege of "following" you boys.

  71. Jennifer Morgan on

    Ed, I am so sorry for your loss. I know the heartache of losing a beloved furry family member, but the bond you and Willie had was so special as you beautifully described is devastating. Your pictures are wonderful. I know you will hold the memories dearly. Many prayers for peace for you and your family. Take care.

  72. Ed and family, Willie gave to you and you gave so much back. The pictures show a life well lived - loaded with love and adventure. Wow, what a journey!

  73. Ed, I am deeply sorry to learn of Willie's passing. It is tremendously difficult to say good-bye. Your posting conveyed everything Willie meant and did for you and your family perfectly. Peace.

  74. Pauline Leveille on

    Ed, thank you so much for sharing your heartache with us. I've read this post several times since you put it up, have cried each time. Willie was a presence, and he will be missed. Even though you are working with a new partner, we all knew that you and Willie still had that strong bond and your post reinforces that. I love dogs, but there are a small number who have the character to make me miss them even though I barely knew them. Willie was definitely one of those dogs!

  75. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing dog. You two were truly partners and incredible ambassadors. Thank you for sharing Willie with all of SAS so we could love him as well.

  76. What we have once enjoyed we can never lose;
    All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
    ~ Helen Keller

    My sincerest condolences.

  77. Robin Crumpton on

    Ed, I am so sorry for your loss. Seeing Willie always brought a smile to my face. Our furry family members have that power. I cannot imagine how it must feel not to have Willie around. He was obviously loved and lived a wonderful life. RIP Willie.

  78. Willie was a fixture on campus and obviously also in your life and your family. What a lovely and beautifully written post about an exceptional partnership.

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