Wiley, painted by Eliza when she was 9
A sentence uttered by Eliza when she was five years old paved the way for a little dog named Wiley to enter our lives.
We already had Lucy, a basset hound rescue. But Lucy was a sweet, sedentary creature with a lot of emotional baggage who basically lived in our closet or on our bed, making her a dull companion for a kid. One night, at my friend Von Rae’s annual holiday party, Eliza decided to amuse herself by chasing Von Rae’s cats around. “Be careful with them, honey,” Von Rae cautioned. “They’re old.”
“I’m sorry,” Eliza said. “I’m not used to a pet that moves.”
Hearing this, my husband Jer and I decided that Eliza deserved a pet that moved. Two years later, on December 22, 2007, she picked Wiley as that pet on a visit to the Amanda Foundation, a rescue in Beverly Hills. Wiley immediately anointed himself Eliza’s protector, making her bedroom his home. During his first weeks with us, he barked at Jer whenever he passed the room. Wiley had one chipped tooth, which we joked he broke during a bar fight. But his tough-guy phase quickly passed, and he proved himself to be a wonderful dog, affectionate in the gentlest of ways. He was a total pet catch. I honored him by writing him into my mystery series as King Cake, the sweet doggy protector of the local exercise instructor.
We never knew how old Wiley was. The rescue put his age at three, but he’d been there a year, so I guessed him to be at least four when we brought him home. As he aged, he slept more and played less, but that was to be expected. Then, a few months ago, I woke up to find him shaking and contorted like Quasimodo. I thought he’d had a stroke and rushed him to the vet. She said strokes were unlikely in dogs and diagnosed him with a bad neck strain. We coddled and babied him for the next few weeks and the pain went away. But Wiley was never the same after that.
He lost his hearing. His eyesight began to go. He became incontinent. We bought doggy diapers, a Swiffer, and rug cleaner. Jer said we were like orderlies at a doggy nursing home. The week before Christmas, we invited friends over for a holiday dinner. I’d bought a rotating Christmas tree stand that I couldn’t wait to show off. As soon as our guests rang the doorbell, I lay down on the floor to switch it on. But instead of walking into a Christmas tree rotating while soothing carols played, our guests were greeted by the image of me running by them yelling, “S—t, s—t, I just lay down in a giant puddle of dog pee!!”
A month or so after the rotating tree debacle, worried about Wiley’s continuing deterioration, I took him to the vet for a quality of life exam. “There’s no quality of life here,” the vet said as she watched him walk around in circles, which was all he seemed to do anymore. “It’s time.”
Of course, it’s never time when you’re a pet parent. Our goodbye was especially difficult since Eliza was at college 1800 miles away. Bereft, she insisted on Facetiming with us at the vet as we crossed Wiley over the rainbow bridge.
As I write this, it’s been a week since we gave Wiley his final hugs and kisses. Eliza asked for pictures of him, so I put together a Power Point of them for her. After the last photo, I wrote this:
Wiley Byron Remillong
A life well lived.
A dog well loved.
You will be in our hearts forever…
Readers, do you – or did you – have a beloved pet?