A second children's book featuring Wheely Willy was How Willy Got His Wings: The Further Adventures of Wheely Willy (2003) by Deborah Turner and Diana Mohler, illustrated by Sue Ehrends.
Wheely Willy the famed paraplagic chihuahua died 22 December 2009, sometime in the night, in his mommy/owner's bed. Deborah Turner wrapped his four-pound body in a blanket, held on to his front paws, and wept.
Willy had been one of the most beloved chihuahuas throughout the world, and will be remembered forever through children's books about his life, and by the thousands upon thousands of children who were visited by him in hospitals and elementary schools.
His estimated age was twenty years, possibly twenty-two; but his exact age was never known. His earliest history was to remain clouded. In the early 1990s a woman discovered a cardboard box sealed with tape on a street in Los Angeles. Inside was an emaciated long-neglected dog.
He couldn't bark or even whine. Nor could he stand up. Taken to a vet, it was soon discovered he couldn't bark because his vocal cords were cut. He couldn't stand because his back was broken, probably stepped on, perhaps even purposely considering the degree of abuse in evidence.
He was to survive the early horror of his life, but his hind legs would never again function. For a full year he lived in a cage at the veterinarian's office. It was not easy to find a permanent home for such a special needs animal.
When Deborah Turner heard about him, she showed up at the vet's office expecting to find the saddest dog on earth. What she saw instead was one of the happiest most playful dogs of all time, dragging his legs behind him without a care. But when the vet put him back in his cage, his ears went down and his whole body drooped. "We all had tears in our eyes," said Deborah.
The vet had named him Chilly Willy, but when television and newspapers began making him famous, blackhearted trademark owners of the cartoon character Chilly Willy threatened suit. Given the quest for the perfect chariot-like vehicle for Willy, he gained the vastly cooler name of Wheely Willy, and remained thereafter a true celebrity.
This combination of tragedy and heroic happiness expressed by the mute Willy has moved many people to tears.
The photo at left, taken by Eriko Sugita, shows Willy in 2004 during his visit to Japan on the release of the Japanese-language version of his first book.
Deborah commonly let the children and adults who wanted to see Willy hold him, because he loved everybody, and who can be surprised by the depth of emotion expressed by the Tokyo woman blessed to have held such an animal.
"Does Willy do tricks?" children often asked. Deborah would tell them, "His trick is he wakes up every morning happy."
The beginning of the end for Willy began one slippery wet day in January, 2009. Deborah, heading out with Willie for another elementary school presentation, slipped and fell on the porch. Deborah ended up in a wheelchair with a broken leg. Willy would need multiple surgeries for broken hip, leg, and jaw.
He was able to make a few appearances pampered on a soft pillow his last year of life, but he was a very old dog by any measure, and simply never recovered fully. By year's end his tiny heart just stopped.
"There's some part of me that knew he wasn't going to live forever," Turner said. "But then there was some fanciful part of me that thought maybe he will live forever."
Here's a delightful video,
one of many you can find on youtube,
of Willy in action: Day in the Life of Wheely Willy: