Wilbur, 11, Best Dog Ever

Wilbur, our beloved golden retriever, died Wednesday, Aug. 17 at Cornell Veterinary Hospital in Stamford, following a brief and unexpected illness.

Wilbur

Wilbur

He was 11.

Born July 22, 2005 in Weston, he went unnamed for several days after arriving at our downtown Stamford apartment at eight weeks. During a leashed walk one evening to the lone dirt patch out back of the building, he scratched out a little hole and rooted there like a pig. So he was named after the “Charlotte’s Web” character.

Sweet-tempered and sociable, Wilbur greeted new people and dogs with genuine warmth. We often said a dog that couldn’t get along with Wilbur couldn’t get along at all. One of his earliest good friends was Lennox, a pit bull whose owner thought he couldn’t get along with any other dog until he met Wilbur.

One day in December 2006, when Wilbur was 18 months old, we brought home his four-legged brother Russell. For the first 30 minutes, Wilbur demonstrated the only ill will he exhibited in his entire life: He piled his toys together and lay across them. Soon, however, a yapping Russell could be seen chasing Wilbur around the apartment.

He was a patient and perfect big brother to Russell, and later to Louis, Marvin and Dexter. Each of them teethed on Wilbur’s ears and tail. By the time Marv was done, we were calling Wilbur’s tail ‘the twig.’ He also was cousin to Jake, Fred, Henry, Murray, Ralph, Stanley, Arnold, Ray Ban and Seymour.

He loved living downtown, making regular nighttime jaunts to our apartment balcony to observe the life passing by below, though he never barked.

The regulars at the Bedford Street bars got to know him on his nightly walks and he tugged on his leash if we tried to pass by his favorite spots without stopping. Once, outside Brickhouse, a woman noted Wilbur’s deep red coat and regal bearing, and said, “I’m gonna call you ‘Sir Lancelot.’ ”

We took him camping in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks for one week each August. Ranger Tim called Wilbur and Russell “city dogs” and warned us that mountain-climbing would crack open their paw pads, advising us to bring Super-Glue to mend them on the trails—but we never needed to, as Wilbur’s pads had been hardened on downtown Stamford’s sidewalks as well as at the Mianus River Park.

That’s where he met and spent time with his surrogate brother Alfie and best pals Gooch, Archie, Yankee, Elliot, Laddie, Buddy, Faith, Johnny Cash, Digit, Sancho, Louis Armstrong, Hunter, Obie, Murphy, Lila, Jupe, Chowder, Booey, Ketchup, Goose, River, Ripley, Finn, Rodeo, Diz, Molly, Jesse, Hobbs, Ari, Perkins, Conner, Charlie, Angus, Oso, Maldy and others. Wilbur’s best friend during his early years was his dad, Bailey.

Wilbur loved the winter and hated the humid summers. Often, when we lived at the apartment, he refused during walks to leave the shadow of the building. Marie’s sister Roisin visited each summer and we nicknamed them ‘The Sweaty Betties,’ because most days they sat together next to the AC unit, hogging the cool air.

Strangers who saw Wilbur with Russell together often assumed that Wilbur was the mother—not because he looked female, but because he exuded qualities that we associate with moms. He was a worrier and a protector. As our pack grew from just Wilbur to five dogs, we always knew when one of the other boys had done something wrong because Wilbur the worrier would paw at us on returning home.

He loved all food. He had bionic hearing when it came to the refrigerator door. Midday or midnight snack, no matter what time, an undetected Wilbur could be found sitting beside the refrigerator by the time the door closed again.

Wilbur ate his kibble so fast that we had to get him a special bowl so he wouldn’t choke.

He loved the car and accompanied me on errands. Though we had four other dogs and all of them would beat Wilbur to the car when it was time to pile in for a trip to the park, I would say “Just Wilbur” and he would perk up and trot past them and down to the driveway.

He loved a made bed.

In the summer of 2006, we flew to Ireland for a wedding, leaving Wilbur with our friend Kate. When we phoned from the airport before takeoff to ask how Wilbur was settling in, she told us that she had been unable find him for several minutes until she went upstairs to her own bedroom and saw what she described as a “brown blob in the middle of my bed.”

He loved lying down on a pile of pillows on a sofa, and we sometimes called him ‘Cleopatra.’

We moved into a house in Stamford just before Wilbur’s fourth birthday. Marie’s father George and brother Patrick, both electricians, traveled from Ireland to help us with renovating. During that week, Wilbur looked on placidly from the hardwood floor as they worked. Patrick eyed Wilbur one night and said, “He’s the foreman. Make sure it’s done right.”

Wilbur loved all forms of water, and was an expert at fetching tennis balls chucked far out into the Long Island Sound at Tod’s Point in Greenwich. He was susceptible to ear infections and hot spots, and generally was a stinky dog who loved to roll in the dirt, sand, mud and grass, earning the title ‘King of Stink.’

He spent several summers digging in the sandy beach at Stamford’s Cove Island.

During blizzards, he loved walking with Marie to a cemetery near the apartment building and romping off-leash in the snow. At the house, he would burrow and roll in the snow in our yard, and we would have to call him back inside or else he’d stay out there all day. He loved getting rubbed down with a towel to dry off, and was scared of the fireplace.

He hated getting baths and was terrified of thunder.

Wilbur was never lost. Even as a puppy, off-leash at the Mianus, he would wait for us if he got ahead on the trail. He loved to carry big sticks in his mouth.

Wilbur always tried to lick kids passing by in strollers, and he never tired of puppies. Even when he was the oldest dog in a group, he would break into the “puppy dance” when he saw them, rolling on his back and letting them nip at his body.

He traveled to Boston and as far north as Bangor, Maine, and recently vacationed at Myrtle Beach, S.C.

33 thoughts on “Wilbur, 11, Best Dog Ever

  1. So sorry for your loss. Having recently experienced loosing a beloved pet, I feel your sorrow. What a beautiful tribute you’ve written. My sweet little Farley will welcome Wilbur in doggie heaven!

  2. Dear Michael,
    What a lovely tribute to Wilbur! I find myself in tears over my morning coffee. Not only did he bring immeasurable love to your lives–you gave him the perfect doggie life! I’m sure you have many wonderful photos that will help to keep in your hearts forever.

  3. Michael, This brought tears to my eyes while reading this beautiful tribute to your wonderful Wilbur! You & Marie gave him so much love and he in return to you. Indeed he was a very special dog who touched the hearts of all people and dogs he met. RIP, Wilbur. So very sorry for your loss.

  4. So sorry for your precious loss, losing a friend is so terribly difficult. Wilbur is waiting for you at the at the Rainbow Bridge. Kelly Harshbarger oxox

  5. So, so sad, Mike. What a gorgeous tribute to a special boy. My condolences to you, Marie, and the whole family. Happy that Wilbur was yours for the time he was with us.

  6. What an unforgettable dog and what a giant-sized personality and heart he had! Thank you for sharing him through your wonderful words. To his two-legged and four-legged friends, and especially to his parents and siblings,
    please accept my deep sympathy.

  7. Lovely tribute. It’s awful losing a beloved pet. But know, when you think you feel him in his usual spot, he is there visiting, keeping an eye on things.

  8. What a marvelous tribute, Mike. I never met Wilbur, but you have shared him so lovingly that we all grieve with you.

  9. Cody T. Dog-Man and our family extend our deepest sympathies on the loss of Wilbur. Thank you for sharing that wonderful celebration of his life.

  10. Michael, Marie—you gave Wilbur the time of his full, happy life! If only all pets could be loved and cared for in all the sweet ways you made Wilbur’s life THE best. May those beautiful thoughts of him, until you meet again in heaven, bring warm tears that turn again to laughter as you picture him wiggling on his back because he’s having such a good time for himself. “Thanks, Mom….thanks, Dad. I love you too.”

  11. Wilbur sounded like an exceptional dog and you are truly a dog person, Mike. Sorry for your loss.
    Betty and Wisdom

  12. I do not think that it is only the color of their “coat” that makes a “golden retriever”, golden.
    Tom, Libby and “Butter”

  13. Mike,
    What a lovely tribute.
    So sorry for your loss.
    As a former “Patch” editor, I know how much you love your dogs.
    It’s clear that Wilbur had a wonderful life and that the joy he gave to others was in no small measure a reflection of the love he received.
    – Jane

  14. To all the Dinan Family –
    Another angel has crossed the Rainbow Bridge to become a bright shining star up above. Cosmo, The Bean and I are thinking of you and your family as you go through this impossible time.

    EO

  15. What an awesome tribute! You’ve really captured your boy’s personality . . . I feel as if I knew him (more than our brief dog-sitting stint). My thoughts are with you and Marie. Hang in there . . . it’s a tough loss when such a special and beloved friend moves on. Terry and I have said goodbye to two really special dogs over our 20 years together, and it is such a heart breaker! I dream about them every once and a while and I know I’ll see them again on the other side. Wilbur will be waiting for you both one day too . . . keep the faith! xoxo

  16. Michael

    Fabulous tribute to a wonderful dog. They all make our lives both fuller and richer despite the mess and stink. We will miss seeing Wilbur at Lake Mohegan, romping in the mud, but I am sure he is in a better place.

  17. Mike and Marie,
    You took me on a lovely journey through Wilbur’s life.. Wilbur deserves your sadness for now but soon your tears will become smiles…

  18. So very sad for your loss Mike. Wilbur sounds like he was a truly great dog. How lucky he was to have you and Marie to love him and how very lucky you guys were to have him in your lives. Your tribute to him was beautiful and I know he will live on in your hearts forever.

  19. Michael, I cried all the way through it. However, this is a good and an appropriate thing to remember –

    “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”
    ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

    Jeanne

  20. So sorry for the loss of your beloved Wilbur. This story drove me to tears, as I too lost my best friend Drake (a pit bull) last year suddenly. Know that Wilbur is for sure making many new friends at the Rainbow Bridge.

    Amazing tribute, makes us all feel as if we knew Wilbur personally from all the vivid details.

    Run free at the bridge Wilbur

  21. We had the honor of meeting Wilbur, he was THE most loving,caring, patiente, smart and cute dog. The was a great teacher and friend of Sancho (a little energetic BT) we’ll miss him deeply.

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