(Forgot to post for a while. My bad...)
From Sunday's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
Most of you won’t remember Winston, who appeared in the newspaper from time to time during the past 10 years or so.
no steady reader of the paper will forget Wiley Hilburn, your faithful
and dependable north Louisiana columnist for decades until he passed
away Jan. 16, 2014, at age 75.
That’s 17 months ago. Time is a funny thing.
was an often sleepy but always loyal companion to Wiley and his wife,
Kate. It was Kate who sent me a note with the sobering news this week,
early Tuesday evening:
wanted you to know that I put Winston to sleep this morning; he had
lost use of his back legs and it turned out he had a bone cancer on his
Winston was a Lab mix, mostly Lab but definitely
some “mix.” (I never asked Wiley. Or Winston. Some things you just don’t
bring up.) They called him the “big white dog,” which is about as
perfect as you can get in description. Winston was all three of those
“He never barked,” Kate said. “He smelled good. Expert
sleeper and napper. He was comfort to Wiley during his hard times and my
companion during mine.”
You think of the truth in that, then
multiply it by millions. It should remind us that, among other blessings
we should pause daily to think on, we should take at least five minutes
just to be thankful for the dogs we have been so lucky to know, much
less share life with.
Just the fact that Winston grew old — it
definitely was not work or over-activity that did him in — that he could
not dodge disease, that the world is short one more loyal companion for
a worthy mom, is sad. And someone else will have to make a similar
decision and do the right thing — a hard thing — this week. God bless
But the upside, at least for Kate, is this: “I’m trying to
picture Wiley and Winston,” she said, “piled up on some heavenly couch
watching a Cubs game.”
Many of you remember Atlanta-based
syndicated columnist Lewis Grizzard, who wrote of his black Lab Catfish
often, including when Catfish died. Grizzard passed away 20 years ago
this past March — (time is a funny thing) — and the cartoon I remember
from that time by Mike Luckovich is of Catfish running through the
Pearly Gates to greet his typewriter-toting friend.
I like to think of Wiley doing the same to greet Winston.
did not spend a lot of time around Winston. Sort of let him have his
space on the few times I went out to Wiley and Kate’s house in
Choudrant. For one thing, Winston had some girth about him. And he
didn’t speak, so he always fooled me into thinking he was some giant
silent assassin. And he knew I wasn’t Wiley because I was not in the big
chair reading a book or watching the game, which were Wiley’s two main
positions. If you could see the chair and the den set-up — lots of books
on shelves and cozy but still big enough for a big white dog to
maneuver — you’d wonder why Wiley ever bothered to leave the house at
Books right there. Sweet chair. Blanket. Remote. Game on. Dog. Is this where we strike up the “Hallelujah Chorus”?
Wiley’s teenage years, Elvis had his first big hit. (Elvis died 38
years ago this Sunday, by the way. There’s that ‘time’ thing again...)
And I loved Elvis/Ebis, but there’s no such thing as “nothin’ but a
hound dog,” not if somebody really loves that dog, and not if that dog
really loves somebody.
Just to keep you up to speed, before I knew
I’d hear from Kate, I went by Wiley’s Tuesday, by his grave, in
mid-morning. I parked for a few minutes, Wiley on my left, his Ruston
Bearcats practicing football, not more than 100 yards away, behind Wiley
and in front of me. I suppose that at about the same time, a few miles
east, while sweaty teenagers pushed a sled and coaches blew whistles and
life rolled on with all it’s grand possibilities, Kate was bravely
taking Winston, a good soldier through Wiley’s sickness and beyond, to
I hope that Kate’s wish from earlier came true. And
not that it would have mattered so much to Wiley and Winston on this
first night back together, but Tuesday night, the Cubs moved 15 games
above .500. They beat Milwaukee, 6-3.