When Mark Woods and Lisa Chapman-Woods realised one of their beloved dogs was nearing the end of his days, they had to face the heart-wrenching decision every pet owner dreads and made an appointment to have him put peacefully to sleep.
But while it’s something that happens every day in a nation of millions of dog lovers, 18-year-old Walnut’s send-off has made headlines around the world after hundreds of fellow canines (and their humans) joined the elderly whippet on his very last walk.
With Walnut living a good few years over the average expected age of whippets and his health deteriorating, Woods posted a Facebook status on 8 November asking people to join them on Walnut’s favourite beach in his hometown of Newquay, Cornwall – likely never imagining that his plea would go far beyond his friends and family to be liked 19,000 times and shared across the globe.
But the hashtag #walkwithwalnut went viral, and on Saturday (12 November) a huge crowd accompanied Woods as he carried Walnut across Porth Beach and let him dip his paws into the water for one last time (no, YOU’RE crying).
Woods had originally written on Facebook: “We will be having a last walk together on his beloved Porth Beach at 9.30am. I would love it if dog lovers/owners and friends would join us for a celebration of Walnut on his favourite Porth Beach. He has had an incredible life and having reached the grand age of 18 is ready for his final sleep.”
But he said he was “flabbergasted” by the massive response, not only having so many walk with him locally, but pet owners across the world joining the walk via social media.
He later confirmed Walnut had been put to sleep at lunchtime, surrounded by the family, and thanked everyone who’d taken part, writing: “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. 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 9.30am all around the world.”
He added: “I also want to thank the wonderful people of Newquay for their support which I will never forget as long as I live.”
As cornwalllive.com reports, Woods was “blown away” by the show of affection.
“It's making the whole situation easier,” he said. “When you talk about situations like this it's much, much easier to deal with. We would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
As news of the mass walk spread, many took to Twitter to say that the story was a ray of sunshine in an otherwise depressing year.
In fact, the story struck such a chord that a charity single has already been written and released in Walnut’s honour, with all proceeds going directly to Battersea Cats & Dogs Home.
The Ethical Record Label (TERL) said the track, Walk with Walnut by Gee Kenny, was supporting a charity close to the team’s hearts.
Label manager Ed Cox said: “As dog lovers ourselves, we at TERL have been particularly moved by Mark and Walnut’s story. Relatable to many across the world, made clear by the response that the story has had, we wanted to do all that we could to help support both Mark and Walnut as they spend their last day together.
“The Ethical Record Label and I would like to wish Mark and Walnut our best, and encourage everyone that is able to fully support Battersea - a charity particularly close to all of our hearts.”
Main image: facebook.com/markdwoods