From Homeless to Happiness
By Roger C. Wood
(1) Bill is Homeless
Bill was born about 1992 in Ocala to unknown parents, but we suspect that he is part bird-dog and part bulldog which makes him a “Billdog”. Bill is a very impressive looking dog who is about 95% white with a very thick coat, some very small brown spots, a brown ear, and a bobbed brown tail. He is muscular, athletic, fit and trim, and he maintains his weight at about 55 pounds. When people see Bill they often say, “what a pretty dog , but what kind of dog is he”? When I say to them that he is a “Billdog”, they look very perplexed and say, “What kind is that”? I then explain that Bill is part bulldog and part bird-dog, which makes him a “Billdog”, and they always laugh at this creativity. Bill, who was already named when we got him, was about a year old when Lisa, a friend of my daughter Julie, was working at Dr. Lee Kierstein’s veterinarian office in Ocala, Florida. Lisa told Julie that Bill had been brought into the Vet’s office because he had been hit by a car and his back leg was injured. Dr. Kierstein fixed Bill’s leg, but Bill’s family would not come back to get him. Dr. Kierstein was very kind to treat Bill and keep him at his office until a new home could be found. Bill was homeless at the veterinarian’s office for about a month and was about to be sent to the Humane Society when Julie was told about him. Julie asked her mother Jessica if we could have Bill and Jessica agreed. This was the beginning of a great relationship! Bill was so excited and happy to have a home, he enthusiastically chewed up some of Jessica’s shoes and the television remote control. This was in 1993 when Bill was young and very energetic, so he stayed outside on Riverwood Farm most of the time where he had many acres to run and play on. Bill loves to play with our other animals including horses, burros, cats and wild squirrels. In the beginning, he slept in the garage in a very comfortable dog house, but sometimes he slept in the house in a big leather chair. Today, Bill sleeps anywhere he wants to in the house!
(2) Bill & Ben Run Away
About 1994, we found another homeless dog in the Ocala National Forest, a very handsome tri-color beagle we named “Ben”. Bill and Ben became big buddies and would run and play on the farm, as well as in the house. They began spending all their nights in the house and their days outside on the farm. There was however a big problem with Bill and Ben. About every few months they would dig out of the yard and run away into the woods to trail wildlife along the Ocklawaha River and we would spend hours and sometimes days trying to find them. We would post rewards for their return and we would always find them or someone else would return them to us. One time Bill and Ben were gone for almost two weeks before a lady called me to say that she saw them at her mobile home park, so I immediately jumped into the truck to go get them. You cannot imagine how happy they were to see me and how happy I was to see them. So why did they run away in the first place? I guess it is such a great temptation to run wild in the woods and along the river trailing deer, wild hogs, turkeys and other wildlife that they just cannot help it. This happened several times and in about 1998, Bill and Ben ran away again and after two days Bill returned, but Ben did not. We looked for Ben for months and then years and posted a $1,000. reward for his return, but we could never find him. Bill may know what happen to Ben, but he has never talked about it. One of the by-products of searching for a lost pet is that you may find another lost pet in the process. This is exactly what happened one time when Jessica was searching for Ben and Bill and she found a lost bird-dog we named “Mandy”. She was probably less than two years old when Jessica found her wandering around in the Ocala National Forest starving for food and attention. Of course, Jessica was not about to leave any animal in that condition. Mandy lived the good life as the number two dog at Riverwood Farm for many years as Billdog’s companion. Sadly, she passed away in 2007 from cancer.
(3) Bill has to go to Work
This last run away episode changed Bill’s life forever, because he could not be trusted to stay home alone anymore. We were very afraid that he would dig out to go find his lost best friend, Ben. We knew that Bill had to be accounted for at all times, so he started going to work with me everyday from that day on. Bill loves to ride in the car or truck and he loves to be around people at our real estate office. So Bill began a career in the real estate business as our public relations agent. Whenever someone comes to the office, they are first greeted by Bill. Bill loves his work and is ready to go each morning as he waits for me by the front door to ride to the office. At the office, Bill has an office next to mine where he stays until I leave my office or until someone comes in the front door. If I leave to go to another part of the office building, Bill follows me everywhere. Bill attends all meetings in our office and many meetings outside of the office. As you can imagine, Bill receives much attention from everyone as he “suffers from being overpetted”.
(4) Bill on the Road
We frequently travel to the North Carolina Mountains for pleasure and real estate business. Bill always travels with us he likes to look out the windows as well as rest on the back seat. He has water and snacks available to him and his favorite thing is to stop for lunch at McDonald’s for a hamburger with nothing on it but bread and meat. We were in Murphy, North Carolina one day about noon which is Bill’s lunch time and we had stopped at a traffic light in front of a McDonald’s. Bill looked out the van window at McDonald’s and starting pawing and whining so we knew he was ready for lunch. We usually stop about every hour or two when traveling so that Bill can run around for exercise. Jessica likes to stop at shopping centers, but Bill and I are not much on shopping so we usually sit out in front of the stores on a bench while she shops. It is very interesting that at least 50% of the shoppers walking by stop and play with Bill. To me this speaks volumes about the heart and kindness of the American public as well as the attractiveness of Bill. When we get to the North Carolina Mountains, we like to spend as much time as possible outdoors and this is a fun time for Bill because he loves to climb mountains. He will take off at full speed up a mountain and when he reaches the top he will look down at us as to say, “what is your problem in getting up here”? Bill likes to run in and around the mountain creeks where he usually ends up with muddy feet and legs. Rabbits and squirrels are very plentiful in the mountain woods and these are especially fun for Bill to chase, although he has never caught one. Sometimes when traveling we have to spend the night in a hotel and we always get a room on the ground floor with an outside door to the grounds, so that Bill can go out easily. One night we stopped traveling later than usual and we got a room with two double beds, so Bill immediately claimed one as his and Jessica claimed the other one. I was the odd man out, so I gently pushed Bill over a little so that I could get into bed. Bill immediately took offense by growling and barking at me for doing this. He was overly tired from traveling and he was not about to be “pushed around”. After the warning, I was very careful to “sleep around” Bill and not further upset him. The next morning after a good nights sleep, he was back to being very pleasant as usual. Bill has never bitten anyone but he does have an “attitude” and he will warn you if you bother him. Julie has had trouble getting him to move sometimes and Bill will gently put his mouth around her arm as to say, “this is a warning that I can bite you if you continue bothering me”. If Jessica and I are playing around and Bill thinks that it is too rough, he will even warn me by running up to me very fast and bumping my leg. We also call him the “Cat Police”, because he will not let the cats fight by running up to them and giving them a hard look. I am very sure that if someone tried to physically harm us, they would have to deal with Bill, and he would certainly bite them if they deserved it.
(5) Bill Boating & Fishing
Bill is not particularly fond of going out on our pontoon boat but he would rather go than stay home. One day we went fishing and boating on the St. Johns River at Astor, Florida and when we stopped the boat to fish, Bill jumped out into the water. The only thing is, Bill did not know he was jumping into the water. He thought he was getting out onto a lush green lawn, which was carpet thick water hyacinths instead. Bill looked very surprised when he came bobbing up among the water hyacinths and I was very anxious to retrieve him, because there are many alligators in the St. Johns River who would love to have Bill for their dinner. I pulled Bill back into the boat and he sure seemed happy to be back on a safe dry surface.
(6) Bill’s Accident & Health
Bill has always been very healthy and athletic and we always take him to Dr. Hogan once a year for a check-up. He begins each morning with a “smart dog” for breakfast, which is a meatless hot-dog. For lunch he usually has a Purina Moist & Meaty Burger. For dinner, he has some dry Purina Senior Food with some moist Pedigree food on top. He also has an ounce of special medicine for his joints prescribed by Dr. Hogan. In 2003, Bill had a freak accident in which he blew out his hock or tore some ligaments in his left back leg. We do not know what really happened except that Bill just starting limping while he was playing outside one day. He was not able to put his foot down, so Dr. Hogan put his leg in a cast for a few weeks thinking that it would heal. Bill was still able to get around well on three legs and maintain his work and play routines. Unfortunately, it did not heal, so Dr. Hogan referred Bill to the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, Florida. This is a wonderful place and Bill was given first class treatment for the six months that we took him there. Dr. Wheeler and Dr. Lewis, along with several student doctors were absolutely magnificent in their treatment of Bill. They had to do major surgery on Bill’s leg and put in plates and screws to repair the ligament damage. Six months later however, Bill was like new again running and jumping like a puppy. We will always be indebted to these caring doctors who made Bill whole again. The treatment and “bed side manner” of this place is simply great. At this time, Bill is 17 years old and many people think he is a puppy. Bill is very particular about his eating habits and he often will not eat food given to him immediately. He will sometimes just let his food sit for minutes or even hours before eating it, and he eats slowly. We were at a friend’s home in Montezuma, Georgia for lunch one day and Jessica told our friend Jean Smith that Bill would eat some beef tips over rice from a fork. She began to feed Bill from the table with a fork and Jean was so surprised and amused at this activity that she later called several friends to tell them about Bill eating from a fork.
7) A Typical Day for Bill
Bill usually rises about 7 am and he then wakes Jessica who takes him and other pets for a morning walk on the farm. After the walk, he eats a “smart dog” and waits usually at the top of the stairs or at the front door while Jessica and I get ready for work. At about 8:00 am, I wash Bill’s face with a warm wash cloth and then we go outside to get into the truck. Bill jumps in the back seat and we go off to the office. When we get to the office, Bill goes into his office next to mine and takes a rest until the first visitor comes in. He then immediately gets up and goes out into the lobby to greet the visitor. This routine goes on several times a day. I usually leave the office at lunch time after giving Bill his lunch and I return about an hour later. Upon my return, Bill greets me as if I had been gone for days by jumping, running and twisting. We then take a long walk around the neighborhood, so that we both can get some needed midday exercise. At about 4 p.m. it is time to leave the office and Bill has an internal clock that tells him when it is time. He also knows that when I turn off the computer screen that it is time to go home. We usually have some errands to run and then we go home to Riverwood Farm where we have to feed all the pets including horses, burros and cats. Bill follows me all around the farm as I take care of these duties. Jessica soon comes home and Bill then starts following her from room to room. At the office, he follows me from room to room but at home he follows her from room to room. After dinner, Jessica takes Bill and some of the other pets on a walk and then again before bedtime, which is usually around 11:30 p.m.
(8) Billdog in 2008
It is now the end of 2007 and Billdog is still with us and going strong but somewhat like his owner, he is not quite as fast and flexible as he used to be. He will be 17 years old in January of 2008, so it is very remarkable that he is still in such good shape especially for his size which he has always maintained at about 55 pounds. A couple of years ago, Billdog had a tumor removed from the top of his head at the University of Florida and Dr. Ellison thought that it would come back within a year but it did not. It was not cancer but it was scary to see Billdog with what looked like an egg on top of his head. He does have a prominent scar from the surgery which folks frequently ask about and we tell them jokingly that he was in a bad fight. Although Bill is now an old guy of 17 years old, he is in remarkably good condition and most people think that he is much younger. He stays very active both mentally and physically working at the office and playing on the farm, so he has no plans to retire from work. His special diet is very important for his health and he now only eats duck, rabbit and venison which he gets from Dr. Hogan’s office.
(9) Billdog is Still Going in 2009 with Acupuncture
Billdog is now about 18 years old in 2009 and he is still with us and going to work everyday. A few months ago he was falling and could not get up by himself so we took him to the University of Florida for treatment. Dr. Justin Shmalberg started treating Bill with Acupuncture and Chinese medicines, Suan Zao and Qi Performance. Bill immediately responded to treatment and has been receiving Acupuncture from Dr. Shmalberg every two weeks since. The other day a raccoon came near the back porch and Bill chased him across the backyard at full speed as the raccoon ran up a tree. So now Bill claims that he is a Coondog, but I told him that he had better not quit his day job. We are very pleased with Bill’s progress and very thankful to Dr. Shmalberg.
(10) Final Chapter
Billdog Wood passed away on November 10, 2009 at the old age of about 18. He was truly a great guy and we will always miss him very much. The letter below is a special tribute to Billdog from his Doctor, Justin Shmalberg, DVM.
From: Justin Shmalberg DVM [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 7:16 AM
To: Roger C Wood
Cc: Jessica Wood; [email protected]
Subject: Re: Billdog
I wanted to extend my deepest sympathies for your loss – I can’t imagine how difficult of a time this must be for you and your family. Bill was fortunate to have such a caring and compassionate family -his longevity is a tribute to your efforts to keep him comfortable and healthy. I hope we were able to play a small role in lengthening his quality of life, but the bulk of the care is always done by dedicated owners such as yourself. He really was an amazing dog and no doubt will his spirit and personality live on in all those that new him. I just recently received the final edit of the article featuring him and I’ll be sure to give you a copy of the magazine when it is available and it will also be sent to thousands of veterinarians worldwide. In this way, hopefully, his medical history can also help teach and train other professionals and help other dogs, which I somehow imagine Bill would have appreciated. I have no doubt you all will have many fond memories of your time spent with Bill that will leave an indelible mark on your lives. We are in many ways it seems all privileged to have known him – I personally thank you all for entrusting me with part of his care. I will long remember him for his personality and determination – he must have felt quite lucky to have found you all as his adoptive family! I’ll be keeping you all in my thoughts and please don’t hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do.
Best – Justin
Bill wanted most of all to inspire those who read his story to adopt a pet from the Humane Society or Animal Shelter. Bill guarantees that an adopted pet will provide both of you with more fun and happiness than you can ever imagine. Bill and I thank you very much for reading his story and for your support for homeless pets.