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After surgery, canine copilot Willie on the mend

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KENLY — Friends and fans of Willie, the 10-year-old Australian cattle dog owned by Donnie and Ellen Boyette of Kenly, have been encouraged to learn that Willie is home and recuperating from serious injuries he received in an accident on Jan. 7 involving master Donnie’s pickup truck.

Willie’s popularity has come about in recent years due to newspaper articles showing him riding in the passenger seat of his master’s small airplane.

Donnie Boyette, a retired farmer whose hobby is flying, is generally accompanied by Willie whenever he takes his plane up.

While Willie seems to enjoy flying, he basically enjoys being anywhere Donnie happens to be whether in the pickup truck, in the plane or around the farm.

Donnie Boyette said when he was leaving the house on Jan.7, Willie ran under the wheels of the truck and was injured .

The Boyettes did not know the extent of Willie’s injuries, but Donnie said the dog was obviously in great pain.

They carried him to Wilson Veterinary Clinic in Wilson where he was X-rayed and learned he had suffered a broken pelvis.

Veterinarians told the Boyettes they would not be able to treat the injuries there and recommended they call the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Boyettes rushed the dog to the vet school where Willie’s injuries were diagnosed and doctors said they might be able to help.

They could not perform the required surgery immediately, however, due to being backed up with other animals also awaiting treatment.

Donnie Boyette said it was two days before they could complete the complex surgery, which involved inserting surgical screws on both sides of Willie’s body and attaching his pelvis back to the spine.

Doctors were unable to determine how much nerve damage was done while Willie’s pelvis was separated, making a final prognosis difficult.

After the surgery, Willie remained in the hospital at the vet school for several days before returning home on Jan. 13 to begin the recuperating and healing process.

“He was not able to even move at first,” said Ellen Boyette.

The couple began taking turns watching over the dog and caring for him around the clock in an enclosed playpen in their house.

Having never been cooped up before, Willie did not think much of the playpen arrangement, Ellen Boyette said.

The Boyettes have been encouraged by Willie’s progress thus far and said they can see signs of gradual improvement almost daily.

“Willie has come a long way and seems to be getting better,” said Donnie Boyette. “He can walk a little now and takes four to five steps at a time. He seems to have full control of his joints.”

“Willie is tough and hard-headed,” said Donnie Boyette. “He must be part cat because he has got nine lives.”

The Boyettes are supposed to go back to the vet school for a progress visit in about eight weeks.

“The folks up there have called every day since Willie got back home to check on him,” said Donnie Boyette. “They are a class act.”

Ellen Boyette said Willie has been receiving get-well cards, phone calls and emails and loves having visitors.

She said he lost a lot of weight during the first part of the rehabilitation but has started to fill out lately thanks to a diet of regular food supplemented with pork chops, chicken with rice and occasional Little Debbie oatmeal cookies or honeybuns as provided by Donnie.

“Running is out of the question for now,” said Donnie Boyette. “Willie does not understand why we will not let him jump in the truck and when I walk out the front door of the house without him, he does not know why he cannot go.”

“Willie has not flown any in the plane yet, but I know he wants to,” said Donnie Boyette. “We carried him to the airport a couple of weeks ago to see the guys there because he knows all of them.

“He may not ever be 100 percent but at least he is still here. Maybe me and him can hobble around together.”