9 truths

Willie at the Colosseum in Rome Italy

An article was recently written about my journey with Willie. I had little control over what facts were used and, in the end, I felt that the writer sensationalized a “rags to riches” story that wasn’t accurate. I understood the writer’s need to pull on the reader’s emotions to make a story that people could relate to, but I wanted it to be truthful.

Not your average shaggy dog story! Willie the schnoodle makes the most of his rescue from life of neglect as he turns globe-trotter to visit 12 countries in five years

The story hinged most of its worth on a lie. Yes, Willie was found on the streets, but he was not starving and living a life of such neglect. With this in mind, I think it’s time to write some truth.

Willie was lost & found, twice, then kidnapped & his real name is “Hooks”

Willie was found as a puppy late one night in a park by a girlfriend of mine. He had no identification tag, and she wanted to give him to her grandmother. It’s true that he was not in the best shape. His hair was matted so much it needed to be cut, and he was always looking for water. At the time I wasn’t interested in taking in any animals, but after being around Willie for a day, my mind started to change. He would wait patiently next to the door when he needed to go out and would listen to me when I asked him to wait, come or go. A few days after we found him his owner saw him outside my house. He lived about a block away and said that Willie was his dog and that his name was “Hooks”. After more conversation, it was clear that we had his dog and had to give him back. What made things harder was knowing that he was living with a family that was not taking care of his needs as much as we would.

Two weeks later I noticed a “found dog” post outside my house. The person described a dog they had found, and it sounded like Willie. I sent an email and confirmed that it was him. Willie had run away from his home again, and I then did something that many may say was wrong. I claimed that Willie was my dog. They asked for a photo, and luckily we had taken one when he was under our care. Knowing Willie’s real home and living conditions, I made a conscious decision to kidnap and provide him with a better life. As anyone can see now, Willie has enjoyed a life that would be a dream for most. Travelling the world, meeting many great people and now helping and bringing joy to less fortunate children. I’ve not once felt bad or regretted this decision.

willie's first photo from 2010

The first photo of Willie that supported the lie that he was ours

Willie does not like to travel

Yes, the dog that has travelled the world does not like travelling. Over the years I’ve noticed that Willie is very much like a child. He needs the structure of a routine and the stability and calm of a familiar home.

Travelling with Willie takes planning. The days before, during and after travel I need to prepare the timing of his sleep and meals. Often he gets diarrhea that lasts a few days after arriving at a new place. Recently, on a stressful bus ride in Colombia, he developed hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE)

It was not life-threatening, but it did take intravenous rehydration and medication and over a week for him to fully recover. I have since introduced probiotic yogurt to his diet to help prevent a reoccurrence.

willie on a flight to Poland

Willie sits patiently on a long flight to Poland

Travelling also introduces Willie to some environmental factors that take time for adjustment. Warmer climates are harder as they expose him to more pests and allergens. There are fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, food and water that can spread disease. Willie has also developed skin allergies to a variety of vegetation which is very common now in domestic pets. We have tried natural remedies, but have found with short stays the only effective way to prevent allergic reactions, infections and disease are by immunization and medication.

Willie travelling on the metro subway in Medellin Colombia

On the metro in Medellin Colombia

Because of these complications of travel, and my desire to keep Willie in a happy place,  I minimize travelling to at most once a month and preferably once every six months. I also try to minimize his exposure to shots and medication by only giving him what he needs, when he needs it.

Willie dislikes children, drunk people and taking photos

Willie is the friendliest dog, but through observation, I have found that he does not like being around children or drunk people. It’s their unpredictable and fast movement that bother him. He enjoys space and gravitates to people with calm, happy energies.

Willie poses patiently with 2 drunk women

Patiently posing for a photo with two intoxicated women

Willie also dislikes taking photos. He doesn’t mind sitting still, but often it’s too much for him to pose long enough to get a good photo under the full light of the sun. Hot days are the most difficult as he’s always looking for shade.

willie-has-his-portrait-drawn-in-malaga-spain

Willie sits still while having his portrait drawn in Malaga Spain

Willie has a real Spanish Pet Passport & fake Service Dog ID

Travelling with a dog is sometimes harder than travelling with a baby. Most hotels don’t allow pets, and when it’s too hot or cold outside, I am limited to the things I can do to make sure Willie is comfortable. When I find myself in this situation, I first try bringing him in his pet carrier. He’s quiet, and it’s hard to notice him through the black mesh material of the bag. If that doesn’t work, I resort to showing his service dog id card that I ordered online. It is fake but works in these occasional times of need. In the end, he does provide a service. He puts smiles on faces.

willie with his spanish passport and service dog ID

Willie’s Spanish Passport & Service Dog ID

Willie has his meals cooked for him. Every day.

Which food we put into our bodies is so important, and so, after much research, I found that the best food, for any animal, is the most natural and fresh. Willie eats freshly cooked meals every day that include lean meats like chicken breast and innards like hearts, livers and kidney, accompanied with a variety of raw vegetables. I also complement his diet with needed vitamins and supplements that are missing from his food. The change in diet helped him lose weight and also stopped further clouding of the cataract in one eye that he has had since birth. He has been on this new diet for a few years, and at eight he’s healthier than ever.

Willie's typical home cooked meal

Willie’s typical home cooked meal

I’m not many things

I’m not an animal lover
I was never looking for an animal to be part of my everyday life. It’s a responsibility that can tie you down, and vet bills can be expensive. From the beginning, Willie has been an exception. He’s calm, quiet, listens and taking care of him is easy. For these reasons it was very natural to make Willie part of my life and take him wherever I go.

I’m not a writer
Writing does not come naturally to me, and it usually takes months of note taking and inspiration to complete one post.

I’m not a photographer
Almost all photos and video of Willie have are taken on my phone. Point and click and then do it many more times to get the perfect shot. I’ve had assistance with many of our photos from our good friend and photographer, Rui Lopes.

I’m not a traveller
Like Willie, I don’t enjoy travelling. I prefer staying in one place long enough to be able to enjoy the climate, culture and connect with locals.

Willie walks the city wall in El Jadida Morocco

Walking on top of the city wall in El Jadida Morocco

I have used Willie only once to pick up a girl 😉

However cute and approachable Willie is, and regardless of the countless times he’s introduced me to women, I have only intentionally used him once as a wingman. It was on the beach in Spain, and without Willie, it would have been very awkward as the girl was sitting with her then boyfriend. Willie just did what he does best. He walked up to their picnic and politely sat down for food. An easy way to make introductions. With the sun shining on her face she was an angel on the beach. We dated for four months. Thank you, Willie.

Willie meets Victoria & Antonio on Playa de La Malagueta in Spain

Wingman Willie introduces me to Victoria & Antonio on Playa de La Malagueta in Spain

Our original mission was not to help orphans

For years I did not know what direction to take Willie’s website. At first, it was just photos of Willie in different places. I then began to write about the places we visited which evolved into writing about the people we met and their perspectives on love. In the last two years, I have included my personal desire to help children, like orphans, which are less fortunate than most and now this has become the main mission of our travels.

A few people were not happy that I wrote about them

I have had positive feedback from many who have read about the people Willie and I have met in our travels. These stories of love touched many. My apologies go out in advance to my current girlfriend as she reads these stories from my past of which some may not be her favourite topic. They are from and are in the past. I hope she can see that these twists and turns were necessary to help form me into who I am today. An imperfect person that’s always learning and striving to become better. A person who loves her very much.

Even though I tried my best to maintain honesty and shed only a positive light, some of the people that I wrote about were unhappy. My apologies go out to them as it was never my intention to make anyone feel this way. My perspectives are only 100% true to me and based entirely on my memory. They cannot possibly represent an accurate perspective of the people in my writing. I’ve encouraged all of them to write their version so that I can post it as their valid truth. So far none have taken this offer.

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