BY MARCY SHORTUSE – Many people know Willie the Chihuahua, who spends time with his “dad,” Ken Heimann, at the Pink Pony. He and his sister, Lulu (same parents, different litter of pups) have wowed the crowds at the Boca Grande Dog Show and the Boca Grande Christmas Walk with their dancing and piano playing antics, and his charisma cannot be denied.
But there is more to Willie than meets the eye – a deeper, more meaningful side of his personality that many are not aware of. Willie is, in fact, a certified therapy dog.
The Heimann family, particularly Ken Sr., have spent a lot of time in a little place called Tomahawk, Wisconsin. It has a population of approximately 3,800 people, and is located near Lake Nokomis on the Wisconsin River.
While the Heimann family is primarily from Chicago, when Ken was a child he moved to Tomahawk with his family and they had a bar named the River’s Edge. Ken started a family of his own and when his son, Ken Jr., was young they moved back again, but just for a few years.
Now River’s Edge is under new ownership, but Ken Sr. has started to go back every year, staying for a few months in a little cabin on Lake Nokomis.
Willie traveled there this summer with Ken Sr. and Ken’s granddaughter, Nikki. Willie spread joy wherever he went. In particular, in Tomahawk, he traveled around to every nursing home and mental health facility in the area. He was a big hit with all of the residents there, whether walking into a bar or a trinket shop, someone instantly greeted “Willie!” at the door.
“The last couple of days we were there we went around to say good-bye to everyone,” Nikki said. “It was so sweet, they didn’t even want to let him go. The activity directors are so excited to have him back next year. We hope this will become a tradition. I wasn’t expecting Wisconsin to be so much fun. There are some beautiful places there.”
Thanks to Willie, Wisconsin became even a little more beautiful this year.