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And the Winner is...

Featured Photo from And the Winner is...

And the Winner is...Willie the Wonder Dog!

Our adorable cover pooch, Willie the senior dachshund, is deaf and nearly blind. Nevertheless, the moment his owners open a bag of treats, the 15-year-old dog suddenly appears at their feet, eagerly awaiting a snack.

“The nose is still fully functional,” laughs Stephanie Ilderton, a Winter Springs resident. “He’s very spry for his age.”

Stephanie became Willie’s mom in 2004, when she was single and living in her home state of Texas. An older woman who attended Stephanie’s church had purchased the pure-bred pup from a breeder but soon realized she wasn’t up to the task of caring for him.

So, the woman convinced Stephanie to adopt the smooth-haired red dachshund, who was less than a year old. Willie has been by Stephanie’s side ever since, even predating her husband, Nathan, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. The Ildertons have two sons – five-year-old Liam and two-year-old Carey – and a rescue dog named Polly, an eight-year-old Labrador-shepherd mix.

“Willie is a people dog – he wants to be around the crowd, in large part because he’s searching for dropped food,” jokes Stephanie, a communications executive for a risk management firm. “He will also snuggle on your lap and let you pet him all day long. And, he has been nothing but gentle with both our boys.”

The cutest pet photo that Stephanie submitted for our contest is a comical shot of Willie indulging in a bit of peanut butter, with his tongue fully extended.

“Being a dachshund, he’s a naturally whimsical-looking dog,” Stephanie says, but this shot perfectly captures the essence of the winsome Willie, whose red coat is now flecked with white hairs.
“I’ve enjoyed having him all these years," says Stephanie. "Dogs really can be medicine. They are a cure for loneliness and for immaturity, because they help you learn about responsibility. They are sweet, sweet gifts.”

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