They say that dogs are a man’s best friend, and that certainly seemed to be the case for Mark Woods and his whippet Walnut. After 18 years together, though, it was time to say goodbye. But not before Woods arranged the most epic last walk ever.
Woods, from Cornwall, England, first got Walnut when the whippet was just a puppy. In fact, the dog was the first pet that Woods had ever had, and they had a special bond. Indeed, they lived together in the south of England with Woods’ wife Lisa and three more whippet dogs.
However, the pair hadn’t always lived in such a stable family environment. In fact, Woods acknowledged that having Walnut forced him out of the house when he was suffering from depression and loneliness. Moreover, he described the way they came together as “fate” and credited the dog with helping him get his life back on track.
“I have been ill in my life. Like a lot of people, I have suffered from depression for various reasons,” Woods explained. “Now I think ‘My God, what would have happened if he wasn’t there?’ He was a big help, someone to give a cuddle to. No back-chat, no issues, nothing to tell me, just love.”
Indeed, Walnut’s unconditional love had been a constant, even when Woods’ romantic life was more complicated. In fact, the dog lover said Walnut had helped him through three engagements and two marriages. However, the pair’s luck changed when Woods’ current wife Lisa came into their lives. After all, she doted on Walnut as much as Woods did.
But, sadly, Walnut’s health had begun to decline in recent months. For instance, the whippet had become too weak to even walk, forcing Woods to carry him everywhere. So, after eight months of thinking long and hard about the heartbreaking decision, the pet owner decided to have Walnut put down.
However, Woods was unable to let Walnut go without giving him a proper send off. Therefore, he decided the most fitting goodbye would be for the pair to go on a nice walk along the whippet’s favorite stretch of beach in Porth, Newquay. Given the emotion surrounding the stroll, though, Woods decided that the pair shouldn’t make the trip alone.
So the caring owner took to Facebook to invite some friends along for their poignant final journey. “Sadly I am having to have Walnut euthanized on Saturday 12th November and so we will be having a last walk together on his beloved Porth Beach at 9:30 a.m.” he wrote.
He continued, “I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favorite Porth Beach. He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep. Hope to see you on Saturday.”
What happened next was somewhat of a shock for Woods and his family. In a matter of days, the post received 19,000 reactions and attracted the comments of well-wishers from across the globe. And the responses were overwhelmingly supportive. “Such a beautiful thing to do, Walnut is a very lucky dog to have shared such a wonderful life with you,” wrote one user.
In fact, it soon seemed like the whole country was following the “Walk with Walnut” event. Indeed, Woods and Walnut were invited to speak on a number of national television outlets and featured on a whole host of international websites. Woods admitted he was “flabbergasted” by the love and support he received during this immensely difficult time.
Explaining his decision to share his final walk with Walnut, Woods said, “We’ve shared a lot of dramas, a lot of fun and a lot of shenanigans and he’s exceptionally special. Eighteen years is a long time to build up a bond of friendship. We normally walk alone on the beach.”
He added, “It just felt the right thing to do to share a walk for a change, we have the most beautiful beaches in Newquay, a lovely community here and a lot of people have dogs.” So, as planned, on the morning of November 12, 2016, Woods and Walnut took their final trip to the seaside, just hours before the pooch was scheduled to be put to sleep.
However, greeting them on the beach were hundreds of human supporters and their canine companions. All had come to Cornwall to help Walnut and Woods have the best goodbye walk possible. Indeed, when Woods wrapped the elderly whippet in a warm blanket and carried him down to the beach, he was flanked by crowds of people and their pets.
During the walk, many people took the opportunity to introduce themselves to Woods and Walnut and comfort them in their hour of need. Children also patiently took it in turns to stroke the ailing doggie, and Woods even took Walnut for one last paddle in the sea. Then, after a wonderful morning, it was time to say goodbye privately at home.
On Facebook later, Woods shared a photo of himself and his beloved dog along with the sad news of his passing. He wrote, “Walnut passed away this morning at 11:56 a.m. The family and our three whippets, Monty, Nelson and Charlie were also in the room. He went very quickly and in my arms.”
“I am writing this post because I owe it to everyone who has supported myself, my family and most importantly Walnut,” he continued. “Thank you to the hundreds of people that attended the walk this morning and to all those that had their own walks with their beloved pets at 9:30 a.m. all around the world.”
Although he may be gone, Walnut is continuing to touch the hearts of all those who’ve learned of his story. There are even plans to release a charity single about the whippet, with all proceeds going to the Battersea Dog and Cats Home in London. Again, the gesture moved Woods to issue a public thank you via his Facebook page.
“I would like to thank everyone from around the world and more locally here in Newquay for all your support and love to my family,” he wrote. “If I could give you all a hug and if Walnut were here he would smother you in kisses. Walnut now has a legacy to pass on to other dogs and cats that are in need of a home by raising thousands of pounds via the beautiful record that was made for him.”
So, although it’s never easy saying goodbye to a pet, the enormous support Woods received helped him through the heartbreaking experience. And, perhaps the owner best summed up why Walnut had such a big effect on so many strangers. “Dogs really bring the best out in people,” he said. “And then people do the best things.”