My heart is broken and I can’t write about him now but my daughter wrote a blog about him a couple of hours ago which I am copying below. You all remember him from Nov 1, 2006 the day he was found well off a hiking trail in Utah, hidden under 2 fallen trees in a thin blue blanket with brush and shrubs piled up to let him die hidden and alone after being starved for 10-12 weeks and weighing only 22 pounds when he was found by Ryan McPeak of the Salt Lake City animal shelter. Below is my daughter Tracy’s Blog.

Lucky Willie Butler

A Really Lucky Life

Several years ago when our family was living in St. Louis I got a call from my parents one evening.  My mom and dad wanted to talk to me about something very important, so I needed to have some time to focus on what they were about to tell me.

My parents have been known on occasions to be a little dramatic, so I was bracing myself for something.  I just didn’t know what.

My dad in particular gets the acting award, which is odd because it was my mother who majored in drama. It is my father however who likes to spend inordinate amounts of time describing in minute detail how to build a clock when we have simply asked him for the time.

So on this particularly evening I did not know what the subject matter would be.  Were we to discuss their estate plans?  Were they letting me know they were selling everything and hitting the road in the RV that has always been part of the retired life my father envisioned for himself?

No, it was neither of those things.

They told me that they had been attending foster parenting classes over the past few months and were now in the thick of considering a full fledged adoption.

REALLY?  I knew they missed having us kids and grandkids around, but it was hard for me to picture them with the energy to parent a foster child of all things.

Were they crazy, I wondered?  How was I, the reasonable middle child, going to help to acknowledge their incredible unselfishness, yet tell them they needed to re-think things.

The fact was, they began to tell me, they already had taken the plunge and the foster had come from an abused situation.

OH NO!  It was getting way worse than I could have ever imagined.

“How old is she or he?” I asked.

“He is 7 or 8, we think,” my mom responded.

“What do you mean, you think?  Doesn’t he talk?”

“Well, actually he has been so abused, he hasn’t been able to speak.  He hasn’t had much to eat, he’s rather malnourished and he’s very scared of people.”

HOLY CRAP!  I’m thinking.  This is awful.  Is it possible for me to check my parents mental state of mind from 800 miles away?

I knew I had to tread lightly, because clearly they were very much taken with this boy.

“Is he going through therapy?  Has he been checked out physically?  What is your responsibility?  Do you know anything about his parents?” My questions were like flying out of my mouth as quickly as I could think of them.

My dad calmly answered, “He’s beginning to communicate and seems to have built an attachment to me, which apparently is surprising because he has always been afraid of men.”

“That’s good,” I respond.  “How serious are you about adopting him.”

“That’s why we’re calling.  We wanted to let you know that we have him for a trial period and if that goes well we plan to officially adopt him.”

O.K. – this was getting to be a little too much for me.  “Umm, well I guess that’s great.”

“What is his name?”

“Well right now everyone is calling him Willie Butler, but we think we’re going to change his name.”

“Uh, ok – well geez – I’m not sure what to say.  Have you guys really thought this through?”

“Yes, we really think we can make a great difference in Willie Butler’s life.”

“So, does he show any sign of speaking at all?”

“Well, actually he just recently started to howl, so we think that’s a good sign.”

“HOWL?”  OH MY GOODNESS – They were nuts!  I needed to gather my sisters together and quickly get them out of this situation before something awful happens.

“Yes, and we expect that he will soon be able to bark quite well.”


“Oh yes, didn’t we tell you it was a dog?  A Springer Spaniel.  We’ve been taking foster adopt classes through the local Springer Spaniel rescue here in Denver and this dog was found under some logs up in the mountains of Utah and he’s in bad shape.  We’ve decided we can help him.”

Oh thank goodness it was a dog, not a person – but I still knew it was a big responsibility.

That was back in 2006 and the dear dog, now called “Lucky” has been by my dad’s side every moment since that time.

You see, there was a special bond between my dad and Lucky.  It seems that Lucky could speak to my dad, and over the course of the years they spent together, Lucky shared his entire story with my dad.  I won’t go into details about that story because it is my dad and Lucky’s story to tell.

It is quite a story.

Lucky travelled with my parents everywhere including when they came to visit us (now living in California).  I would say that our family put up with Lucky.  He was spoiled and literally followed my dad around like a puppy dog.  (Now I know where that phrase really comes from).

Lucky, a very strong Springer Spaniel, would pull my mom or dad on the leash with such force there were times I was concerned that either my mom or dad would end up on their face in the dirt if Lucky spotted a rabbit that seemed interesting.

This past February my parents arrived at our home for a few nights’ stay before they headed up to Pebble Beach to care for a mutual friend.  Lucky was with them, but it seemed clear to me that he wasn’t quite himself.  Mom and dad were never quite sure how old he was when they adopted him.  Initially they believed he was 8 or 10, but the vet began to think he may be only about 6.

On this last visit, Lucky’s hearing loss had become apparent and a very out of character “marking” of my kitchen sink rug had me wondering if there was something more happening to Lucky.

About 2 weeks ago, my mom let me know that Lucky’s physical deterioration had led them to the vet, where a cancer diagnosis was made.  There was some hope that medication could alleviate the symptoms and that Lucky’s life could continue.

However, on Sunday night things became much worse and an appointment with the vet was made for the following morning.  My mom told me that if there was nothing that could be done, they would have to let Lucky go.

Anyone who has read Sounder, Marley and Me, or The Art of Racing in the Rain knows what happens at the end of an incredible dog story.  And I can’t help myself, the tears just flow.

And yesterday at 11:58 am I got this text from my mom:

“Lucky: We had to let him go.  He’s in doggie heaven.”

Dogs change people’s lives and Lucky was no exception.  The last several years have been an extraordinary relationship between man and dog.  My dad is forever changed from having had the Lucky experience.

Dog’s just do that.

Lucky’s story is quite incredible and as I said before, I will leave it for my father to share.

Maybe he will write it for this blog.

Meanwhile – All Dogs Go to Heaven is not just a phrase.  I believe it.

We love you Lucky Willie Butler!

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