Our tiny Airstream home, “The Willy Wagon”, inherited its name from the original wagon first introduced to our family in 2015. The original, however, isn’t an older model of our Airstream as most might assume. It’s not an RV at all. No, the original Willy Wagon is much smaller than an RV. And although simple by comparison and in appearance, it played a much more important role than sheltering us, and it carried something much cuter and more precious.
Its four wheels, long handle, and soft interior was a greatly depended upon mode of transportation for the greatest dog that ever lived. His name was Wilson (aka “Willy”). He was born on the forever notable day of August 6, 2000, and then sadly made his departure on December 4, 2017. He was over seventeen years old when he left our world for Doggy Heaven, and although that seems like a lifetime to most humans, it wasn’t nearly long enough for us.
You see, Wilson truly was the greatest dog that ever lived. He possessed all the inherent characteristics we’ve learned to expect from dogs, being the great creatures they are. And the assumption we all make that the devotion our pets have for us is unconditional, proved ever so true for over seventeen years. Yes, Wilson was our best friend. He was everything the world around us failed to deliver every day, and then he was the comfort and wisdom needed to grow from the disappointments. He was whatever we needed him to be, when we needed it, without fail. He made us better people. His love, friendship and devotion were unparalleled by any other. There was definitely something special about Wilson. Something that could never be described on paper, because it was conveyed by Wilson without ever using words.
Now that you know a little about Wilson and what he meant to us, you can probably imagine the sadness we felt as we watched our best friend’s health start to decline. He was fifteen years old, his bones ached, and his heart was starting to slow. Those daily walks we all looked forward to were painful for Wilson, so they were shortened to a fraction of what they used to be. And although Wilson could still find joy in those short walks, we knew it wasn’t enough and that we had to find a way to get him beyond the end of our street.
Wilson was a big guy, weighing in at 65 pounds (all muscle at one time), so carrying him wasn’t an option. We knew we had to find something that would hold his weight and allow us to pull him those distances he couldn’t manage on his own. We had no idea what to look for, but the search began nevertheless.
I don’t remember how we found it, but we did. A basic, blue, nylon wagon from Dick’s Sporting Goods, which cost us thirty-five dollars. I’m not sure of its intended use, but as it would turn out, it was exactly what we needed. We set it up, which took a total of thirty seconds by simply unfolding it, placed a comfy blanket on the bottom to make it extra soft, and then placed Wilson in it. He loved it immediately and we hadn’t even gone anywhere. We were still in the living room inside our home, but the look on his face told us he knew what it was for.
That blue wagon would prove to be life-changing for Wilson. We used it every day. Wilson would walk as far as he could and then we would hoist him into the wagon and continue the journey by pulling our friend behind us. People would see us in our neighborhood and smile and laugh, and make comments like “that’s so adorable!” Cars would honk at us as we pulled him down the sidewalk along a busy street. And when we stopped somewhere to let him walk on soft green grass, anyone present would approach us and start asking questions about our “situation.” Wilson got to go everywhere and meet so many new people because of his wagon. He even participated in the March of Dimes in Charleston, SC. Anyone with a camera that day took a picture of him. And when he went for a stroll in his wagon along the Battery in Charleston, the tourists were just beside themselves when Wilson rolled by. Everyone loved Wilson and his wagon!
Wilson loved his wagon just as much as everyone else did, and considering how it changed his life, it was deserving of a name. We couldn’t think of anything more fitting than “The Willy Wagon.” Wilson knew its name, too. He would get so excited if someone said “You wanna go for a ride in The Willy Wagon?”, and then slowly make his way alongside it where he would patiently wait for someone to pick him up and put him in. He loved being pulled around outside. Sometimes he positioned himself as if he were hanging his head out the window of a vehicle. Other times, on those really long walks, he would fall asleep like an infant does in a car. Only when the wagon came to a stop would he wake up, but then fall right back to sleep once we started moving again. Oh, how Wilson loved his wagon. It was his connection to the outdoors and his family, and we loved it for all the same reasons.
Wilson used that wagon for over two years, and during that time frame we acquired the Airstream we now live in, which we named Sylvester. Our next immediate purchase was another wagon for Wilson, green this time, to be stored in Sylvester for when we traveled. Wilson was able to vacation with us more than a few times in Sylvester before he passed away, and at each location we visited we gladly pulled him along our scenic hikes. At the end of each day when we called it a night, Wilson slept on the bed in the Airstream with his Mom just as he would if we were home.
So, as you can see, not only did The Willy Wagons have the awesome responsibility of safely carting around our beloved Wilson, they were also Wilson’s connection to life beyond the end of our street. They gave him something to look forward to, a sense of adventure, a new outlook on life. They allowed Wilson to continue doing all the things he loved, and most importantly, allowed our family to do those things together. We believe Wilson lived a little longer than he would have because of his wagons, and of course… the love and devotion of his family.
We still have both of Wilson’s wagons. The blue one is in storage but the green one is tucked away in our tiny home exactly where it was when Wilson traveled with us. When we planned to travel the United States, we thought, or hoped, Wilson would join us. So, although his wagon sits unused, it’s exactly where it belongs. We like knowing it’s there, too. Every time we see it we envision Wilson being pulled down the road with the wind blowing in his hair. We’re reminded of his outlook on life, his sense of adventure, and the importance of family and love. We’re inspired by Wilson to experience life beyond the end of our street, just like he did in his wagon.
Our tiny home is now our wagon, and in honor of Wilson, our best friend and the greatest dog that ever lived, we renamed it to “The Willy Wagon.”
Wilson Bailey (aka – Willy, Sir Wilson, Fuzzy Face, Cutie Patutie) 8/6/00 – 12/4/17