She was tied to the porch, her tail wagging eagerly and her foot pawing the air as we approached. From nose to tail she wiggled with joy to see us, and her expression begged for us to play with her. Her fur was honey-colored, with just a bit of black at the tip of her tail and around her muzzle. Her ears were soft and floppy, like a retriever’s, and her nose was long and slender, like a greyhound’s.
That was our introduction to Willie, our new puppy. A few hours later, she leaped into the van behind me and curled up at my feet. She slept there all the way home, and as she did, we continued our argument over what to name her. In the end, it was Dad’s suggestion that won out.
Dad’s secretary had found Willie lying on the yellow line in the middle of the road. She was a skinny, shy puppy, lost and exhausted. But the secretary couldn’t keep her, and so asked around work if anybody wanted a dog. At that time, we already had a dog; a big black Shepherd/lab cross named Shadow. But Shadow was getting old, and we knew soon we’d have to find another dog. Mom decided that now was the right time, and we went to get Willie.
Dad named her Willie after country legend Willie Nelson and his song “On the Road Again.” When he’d first suggested it, I said, “But she’s a girl!” That was the reaction that everyone else had upon being introduced to Willie. We forever had to explain, “Yes, her name is Willie.” But Willie fit her, especially when we found out that in Australia, winds similar to tornadoes are called willy-willys. For when Willie gets excited, she turns into a regular willie-willie.
At home, we introduced her to Shadow. He paid her scarcely any attention; she groveled at his feet, showing herself most submissive and friendly. They got along well, and Willie was soon at home on our acreage.
We spent the next weeks getting used to Willie and introducing her to her new home. As a puppy, she loved to play. Over the next weeks, she accumulated a collection of “toys”: odd sticks, some rags, one or two rawhide bones, a well-chewed ball. She’d line these up on the front lawn, and dash from one to the other, grabbing it, tossing it into the air, and dropping it before racing to the next toy.
From Willie’s attitude toward other dogs in her first months with us, we figured that she had been abused once by dogs. A month after we got Willie, I took her for a walk around the block. Shadow walked very slow and soon fell behind while Willie frisked around me. At the bottom of one hill, a huge dog came out barking at us, his hackles up and teeth showing. I turned around and saw Shadow at the top of the hill, with Willie halfway up and running as hard as she could. I decided it was a good idea to follow her.
Shadow died about three months after we got Willie. We’d had him for as long as we’d lived on our acreage – fourteen years – so he seemed part of the place. But with Willie there, it didn’t seem so much that we were losing a dog. It was simply Shadow’s time.
The vet guessed that she had at least five different breeds in her, but greyhound was certainly predominant; Willie loved to run. In the summer, Mom got the idea to take Willie for a run on her bike. After that, just seeing Mom or I with our bikes was enough to get Willie bouncing, ready to run. We clocked her doing 25 mph down the hills – the only time we could keep up to her. She runs best in the morning, when it’s cool. If it’s hot, she hits every puddle or slough on the way, and arrives home wet, muddy, and ready to play.
She’s a smart dog, and soon learned “stay” and “heel”. One thing she’s never learned, to my brother’s disappointment, is to play fetch. Somehow she seems to think keep-away much more fun.
One Christmas, the boys received a country CD from Mom and Dad. That was all the music they played for the next several months. We soon had every song on the CD memorized. But one day when they were playing it, I stopped suddenly, listening to the first song. Then I exclaimed, “That’s Willie’s song!” And sure enough, it was – Willie Nelson singing “On the Road Again.”
I hope Willie never goes on the road again. She wasn’t a stray long enough to be a wanderer and stays around our acreage. She’s the smartest, goofiest, most idiotic dog that I’ve ever met. But she’s our Willie, and whenever a certain song comes on the radio, we look at each other with a smile, because it’s Willie’s song.