famous chihuahua® was deeply saddened to hear about the recent passing of superstar chihuahua, wheely willy. if you have never heard of wheely willy, here are the details of his passing and the amazing story that lives in the legacy of this amazing chihuahua. rip wheely willy.
… wheely willy is dead. or is he?
yes, it’s true, his “mother” deborah turner found him curled up next to her in bed on the morning of dec. 22, his tiny heart stopped. she wrapped a blanket around the dog, cradled him in her arms, held onto his little paws and wept.
but wheely willy the symbol lives on. just ask any kid who attended elementary school between 1999 and now.
chances are they met wheely willy. and if they met wheely willy, chances are they haven’t forgotten him.
“life is what you make of it,” was willy’s message.
and that’s a pretty powerful message, coming from a 4-pound chihuahua that overcame hate, paralysis and homelessness to become a tv star and eventually tour the world, bringing even the royal prince and princess of japan to their knees.
no one really knows where wheely willy’s life begins or what horrors befell him.
but he got a second chance in the early ’90s when a woman came upon a cardboard box, sealed with tape, on some street in los angeles. inside she found a hairless, emaciated, shivering little dog.
he didn’t bark, or even whine, because, she later learned, someone had cut his vocal chords. nor did he try to jump out, because, she later learned, his back was broken, leaving his hind legs paralyzed.
the woman took the little dog to a vet she knew who did rescue work, and there he lived, in a cage, for the next year. until deborah turner heard about him.
at the time, deborah owned the doggie in the window pet store in long beach, and she too did rescue work. she arrived at the vet’s office one day expecting to find a sad sack. instead, she found one of the most playful dogs she had ever met, dragging his legs behind him like he didn’t have a care in the world.
“we were all standing around looking at him with tears in our eyes,” she recalls. “well, he didn’t know what the sad story was.”
the vet had named him chilly willy, because before his hair grew back and he put on some fat, he shivered all the time.
deborah’s plan was to return to Long Beach to spread the word of chilly willy’s plight and try and find him a home. but when the vet put willy back in his cage, his ears went all hangdog droopy.
“ok, give him back to me,” she announced.
and soon willy was in a ford explorer on his way to long beach.
deborah’s first order of business was to give willy his legs back. she tried putting his hind legs on a small skateboard, but his front legs couldn’t keep up. next she tied a bunch of helium balloons to the back of the baby pajamas she had bought him, but instead of just lifting his back legs, it lifted his whole body off the ground.
then she saw an ad in a pet magazine for the k-9 cart. the day it arrived, she hooked willy up to his new wheels. he took off running, head thrown back, ears flying.
“this might sound dramatic,” deborah says. “but it took his world from black and white into full blown color. because that’s where life began for him.”
deborah took willy everywhere she went. he rode in the cart at wild oats. and he waited in line at the bank. he even went to the restroom with her since she had to express his bladder for him because of the paralysis.
out on the streets, it seemed like everyone wanted to know: what’s the story there with that little guy?