Monday, October 22, 2012

Wilberforce, A Love Story...

"If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large."
~William Wilberforce

Friends, it is beyond my capacity to grasp but our darling Wilberforce passed away last night. Too soon. Far too soon. I thought I had more time. I thought we had more time.

I cannot recall how his photo crossed my path initially but I fell in love with him that very moment.

The rescue organization, Ruby In the Ruff, was calling the little fellow "Bubbi".  He was listed as 11 years old. He had spent his entire life as a breeding stud in a puppy mill.  A commodity.  He was no longer of use to the breeders so they threw him away.

I hesitated to send an email because English Bulldogs are considered "old" at the age of 7.  I knew my heart would be broken sooner rather than later, when he passed.

I could NOT get that beautiful face out of my mind, however.

I sent an email with my heart in my throat.  What if he was already taken?  By now, he was MINE!
Two days passed with no response.
I sent another email.  They had not received my first.  He WAS available!  I wasted no time in convincing my handsome husband that adopting Wilber was his idea (and a brilliant idea at that)!
I scrambled to fill out all the paperwork, hoping I was good enough. The rescue accepted our application!  
He needed a proper English name.  We decided to name him Wilberforce, after William Wilberforce, the youngest member of British Parliament.  Wilberforce was instrumental in ending England's slave trade.  A staunch animal advocate, he was also a founder of the world's oldest anti-cruelty society.
The movie, Amazing Grace, was written about his life.  A beautiful movie, if you have not yet seen it.

On September 15, 2012, Wilber came home.
The trip from St. Louis to Chicago, via transporters from Grahamville Rescue, was an exhausting experience for the little man.  I gave him our best blanket.  He slept for hours!

Wilber had been "fixed" right before his adventure.  At 11 years old, it was no small deal.  He had been missing an eye, no one knows what happened.  His ears had been infected so many times they were DEEPLY scarred.  He had earmites and intestinal worms.  He had small wounds all over his body, from the other dogs biting him, that had become infected. The flesh on his nose was so dry, it must have been extremely painful. I left my veterinarian's office with myriad medications, along with special cleaners for his skin folds and ears.
Turns out, it didn't matter what we called him because he could not hear a thing.  Still, when I sang to him, I would press my lips to his head and call him Wilber. He would make a funny growling-purring sound when I did that.  He also made that sound when I scratched his neck.  I made it a point to hear that sound as often as I could.

Wilber chose to spend the majority of his time in his crate.  It's what he knew.  He was not potty trained so I brought him clean towels night and day.  I always loved the look on his face when I put a towel, fresh from the dryer, scented with lavender, over his head.

He had spent the majority of his life in a cage. In a cage.
It took a short while for us to learn to communicate with each other.  I would make big, sweeping hand gestures to get his attention.  He followed me everywhere I went...except upstairs.  He was just unable to make it.  At night, I would wake up several times to come and snuggle him.
One night, my husband noticed I had been gone a while and came to look for me.  I was outside with Wilber.  For almost an hour Wilber had just stood in the garden, staring.  I told my husband that he had not had this just be. To enjoy the night.  I wanted to give him that; To be loved and respected and doted upon. Wilber never barked.  Often, when we raised our hand to scratch behind his ears, he flinched.  Towards the end he realized that human hands are not always bad.  I loved to shower his head with kisses. He loved it too.  I miss that the most tonight.

Wilber was very famous among the neighborhood kids.   He adored them, as well.  Everything about them.  In return, he received more snuggles and giggles than he had probably seen in a lifetime.  Ten kids, waiting their turn to pet him.  It is a picture I will carry in my heart forever.

There are not too many photos of Wilber, not only because his time with us was so brief but because every time I stood in front of him to take a photo he would come running to me.  By the time the shutter clicked, all I had was the tip of an ear or a foot or the wall behind him!  I truly believe he loved me as much as I loved him.

Upon his last night on this earth, Wilber was brave to the end.  It was only 10 minutes between recognizing he was in trouble and his meeting with the Lord.  I laid with him in his crate and I sang to him. He made that familiar growling purring sound, he looked right at me with a love I have never known and then...he died. He was at peace.  Now, my grief begins.

I realized something upon my dear Wilber's passing; if I were to die no one would know what my beloved pets were like.  The things they loved, favorite blankies, how they behaved when they were ill, what they liked to eat, where they liked to be pet, etc.  Only me.  I decided to write it all down and I urge you to do so too. Every last detail you can muster.  You are their voice.

I don't now if I would have recognized any symptoms with regard to Wilber's health, or Frannie's health, Shenanigan's, Duchess' or Jenny's.  I do know that knowing their histories would have helped.  It would also have helped to make them more comfortable in their final days.

Wilber also spent a great deal of time in the front boxwood garden.  I joked that it really wasn't a proper English garden unless it had bulldog piddle in it.  That is where we will spread his ashes.  He would have liked that, I think.

Last night, Gracie saw a shooting star.




  1. Poor sweetie, living in a cage most of his life, these people should be shot!!

    I'm crying for you and Wilber. Yes it was a short time, but for him, it was probably a lifetime. You let him know that we humans are not all bad and you gave him a little happiness, a lot of love and a place to die with dignity. And you gave him an awesome name!!

  2. Oh Andie, I'm so sorry. Take comfort that Wilber knew he was finally loved. The image of you singing to him touched my heart.

  3. I am so sorry that you lost Wilberforce so soon. But you gave him an incredible sendoff and the most amazing last few months. For him to finally know such love and peace was the greatest gift you can give to anyone. I hope you and your family and the furry companions are okay. When the sadness gets too much try and remember what an amazing life they have with you, even if it is brief. I hope to see photos of Daniel the cat when you are ready to share them. Huge big hugs to you.

  4. What a lucky, blessed dog he was to have you show him what true love was. Tears of happiness and sadness are happening right now =) I am a veterinarian, and have seen and heard many a sad and happy pet story, but your Wilberforce is a story I won't forget.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I love that you gave him so much in his last few months. Blessings to you.

  6. Thanks for sharing dear Wilber's story. Glad he had you for a short while.

  7. Andie, you are an angel who walks this earth.
    God Bless You for your unconditional love.

    RIP precious Wilberforce.

    May your heart not be too heavy now with his passing.
    "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

    With love from Australia.
    Em x

  8. I am sitting at work in front of my computer literally crying. I am so sorry but at least he was loved by an angel for a while. I just will never understand people. Our new little dog Molly was dumped on our road this summer when it was 105 degrees and a drought, not even a puddle of water to drink from. When we found her she was so scared she ran off into the woods but we were able to gain her trust and now she has the life of a little queen. Maybe you can save another life and give them the love they have never known. Oh crap, I am crying again.

  9. I am so sorry. Our pets really do become family and an important part of our lives. You've written a beautiful and touching tribute.

  10. Oh Andie I'm so sorry. What a lovely post though...I'm a little teary. Our little dog is just 4 so I'm hoping we have many more good years. She really is the light of our lives now that we are empty nesters. She basically runs the house. :o) Can't imagine her not being are a wonderful person Andie. I am in awe.

  11. Oh, how very sad to lose such a wonderful companion.
    You and Jennifer of JC Webb Studio need to share she lost Miss Scarlet.
    Hang in there.....never easy to lose or say good bye to a love.

    1. Tears are pouring now. You have such a way with words.
      His sweet little face just steals your heart. I can see
      why you all loved him so.
      What a sweet sweet story.
      He is blessed by you, the angel in his final days of
      a life where he was a peace and found happiness with you.

      So sad.
      Thanks for sharing.
      Wishing you peace and a healing
      for such a sweet loss.

  12. Oh Andie I'm so sorry you lost your Wilber. He was sooo lucky to have gone home with you. I know you made his last days a heaven for him. My furbabies are written into my will with care instructions just in case. So someone will always take care of them. *swiping a tear* Vanna

  13. How lovely and sad your wilber story is. The loving life he so deserved he finally received was so short but thankfully it will be the last things he remembers. It must have been the most special dog to make such a huge impact in such a short time. I am sure there will never be another like him but please look for one. The sooner you find him the sooner is good life will begin.

  14. Your wonderfully written story has touched my heart.

  15. Divine Theatre,
    I saw a recent comment you made over at Silverfiddle's site and decided to visit your site.

    I am a lifelong lover of animals and have been lucky enough to have had -- and to still have -- several four-legged companions in my household. Just recently, I lost my beloved Dusti. The loss was sudden and blindsided both the vet and me. There is never enough preparation for the loss, of course. But in all my years with pets, I've never been called upon to make the decision of euthanasia with so little warning! My heart still aches for Dusti. She was my heart cat! In all my years of having feline companions, I've had only two heart cats: Dusti and Pooter. Oh, I've loved every one of them! But not every animal companion is a heart pet.

    The time with our four-legged friends is always too short. This is the sad reality of risking one's heart by taking in an animal companion.

    Let me offer you a few words of consolation, Divine Theatre....Once you took Wilbur into your home and into your hear, your Wilbur lived a good life that he never could have imagined -- not even in his best doggie dreams. Of course, you already know that bit of consolation. The other bit that I now offer you: he passed at home -- not in a cage and not in a clinical setting. He passed in the company of a human god (They do see us as their gods, you know!) who loved him and stayed with him till the end. Those comforts mattered a lot to your Wilbur, believe me.

  16. What a blessing you were to your precious friend! Thank you for sharing your story, his life, your love, and now,
    your grief. Ten years ago we got our first afghan hound puppy, and then a week later, her brother. Little Gracie was smaller than the other dogs in her litter and had suffered some health problems after her birth. We had to say goodbye to her after only 3 months when she was six months old, she was gone in a day after everything was attempted to save her. Our hearts were broken. To help me get through the pain of losing her, I wrote a story about her life
    and used the photos I had taken of her and her brother. At the time our daughter was not married, and now has four children, and when the 4 and 6 year old come over they often choose the book about Gracie for me to read to them. The book was just about her cuteness and antics, written from her point of view, and it ends before her death, but the kids always want to ask me questions about her and talk about her even though they never knew this little pup.

    Our beloved pets wind their tendrils of love around our hearts and we are never the same.
    I am so sorry for your loss, and again, thank you for sharing the love that graced Wilber's last weeks.

    ~ Violet

    1. There are so many beautiful people here, and the brightness of their hearts unbinds the darkness and lights even the farthest corners.

  17. what a sweetie he must have been. so warmed by your recounts of his life. thinking of you! donna

  18. Our little English Bulldog, Bruce, has that huge face that is so beautiful. He is my great-grand-dog! HE IS SO LOVED IN OUR FAMILY.

    1. Mom? We will love our Brucie, even if his mamma doesnt! We will give him a good home!!!

  19. I just happened upon your blog and your story of Wilber. I am crying!!! Tears running down my face. Such a sweet, sweet story!!!! I'm so glad you showed Wilber what love feels like!

  20. You may know me as @Piquerish on Twitter. This tribute to Wiberforce was so moving that I wept, and as the tears fell I wondered if they were for the sorrow you so beautifully explained (I have had two similar to it) or for the gratitude I felt for people like you and your willingness to share. My heart goes out to you. Just close your eyes ....

  21. What a well written story. Loved and so adored. I'm sure he is smiling. He might even be able to hear you sing now. 😊


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