Prior to Jan. 5, Willy the 7-year-old labradoodle, was Willy the well-mannered, except for the occasional deer chasing.
But after more than two days caught in a wire fence in freezing temperatures, the black Paeonian Springs dog with the sweet temperament emerged with a new name – Willy the Warrior.
Willy was found Jan. 7 about a half-mile from owner Jess Harper’s home in the backyard of George Orlando on Clarke’s Gap Road.
Harper, a real estate agent, adopted Willy years ago from a family in Syracuse, N.Y. who wanted to give him away because their family of five children had grown too large to keep up with a dog.
At first she thought the dog was too big, but it didn’t take long for his sweet nature and wagging tail to win her over.
“He had me wrapped around his finger in no time,” Harper said.
So after she let him out to play with the other neighborhood dogs on the morning of Jan. 5, she was worried when he didn’t come home after hours of calling. As night set in, she became frantic because the forecast called for snow and sleet.
A neighbor told Harper he had seen his dog and another neighbor’s dog across Route 9 up Clarke Gap’s Road chasing deer.
“I just thought ‘well, Willy’s so fast he probably just got ahead of the other dogs and got lost,” she said.
Harper and others in the neighborhood searched for hours. She sent out a group email to the neighborhood and by 4 p.m. began putting up posters in the area and contacting the Loudoun County Animal Shelter.
“Actually the very last house we put a poster up at was the house where he was found,” she said.
On the morning on Jan. 7, Harper got the call she was longing for. Someone had found Willy – but the outlook wasn’t good.
“I heard him on [Jan. 5] barking but there’s 48 acres over here and 48 hours over there and a dog can bark and it echos, so you don’t know where it’s coming from,” Orlando said as he motioned to where he found Willy. “On [Jan. 7] I said ‘wait a minute, that’s the same dog.”
Not sure if someone was hunting or camping on the property illegally, Orlando went to investigate.
Orlando found Willy a few hundred yards from his home trapped inside the wire fence.
He worked to untangle him and then carried the 75 pound dog back down the hill to his home, where he called Harper. Willy was wearing tags with his owner’s name and phone number.
“He’s a heavy dog. I almost died carrying him,” Orlando said.
Willy was bleeding profusely from his mouth and rectum. He was in shock and unable to even hold his head up from days of being trapped with his paws crossed and on his back in freezing temperatures. At every attempt to untangle himself, the dog got deeper into trouble as the wire cut into the top of his head and paws.
Orlando and Harper still are puzzled at how Willy became tangled in the fence. They believe he may have tripped trying to jump the fence while chasing deer.
Harper rushed Willy to Blue Ridge Veterinarian Associates where Dr. Wendy Behm said his platelet count was extremely low.
“In fact, he was so dehydrated that they couldn’t get any blood serum,” Harper said. “She said she’s never seen an animal still alive with so few platelets.”
Willy stayed at the vet’s office for several days where he was given units of platelets, fluids and antibiotics. The veterinarian was able to get the bleeding under control after two days. The vet bill totaled $3,500.
Still it would be another week before Willy would eat.
“Now he’s eating and he’s been outside walking around on a leash, which is what he’s going to be doing for the rest of his life,” joked Harper.
“We really owe it all to George because he’s the one who found him,” Harper said.
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