A Dog’s Last Meal at Shaggy’s Pensacola Beach

Wilson's last meal at Shaggy's

Pensacola Beach strangers make dog’s last day on earth his best — burgers & fries included.

Story from Pensacola News Journal

Stephen Rampersad sat in a chair at his veterinarian’s office Monday evening with his 14-year-old German Pointer mix, Wilson, lying in his lap. 

Wilson’s belly was full, his heart was happy. But his bladder and stomach were cluttered with cancer. His body was failing, his joints were weak.

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With the push of a needle, Wilson’s eyelids got droopy. Rampersad squeezed his paw. Another push of the needle, and his eyelids closed.

Wilson left the world peacefully, surrounded by the humans who loved him the most. It was the end of a 14-year journey, one that started at an animal shelter in central Florida and ended with the greatest weekend of Wilson’s life, all thanks to the kindness of strangers.

“It was the best weekend we could have asked for,” Rampersad said. “He was an amazing dog.”

Some sad news, but a happy weekend

When Rampersad and his wife, Christen, got the news Friday, they were devastated at first.

They had taken Wilson to the vet because his urine was a strange color, and got the news they were hoping they’d never have to hear.

“They said he was in a lot of pain, and he had these giant, cancerous growths in his bladder and stomach,” Rampersad said. “They found them all over his inside.”

The doctors said they could give Wilson pain medication that would help him urinate and walk, but it would destroy his liver. He didn’t have much time left no matter what they did.

“With a lot of tears, and whatever else, we decided that it was going to be Monday,” Rampersad said, referring to the day they had decided they would have Wilson put down.  

But their devastation turned to determination, with Stephen and Christen, as well as their young sons Jonah and Noah, deciding that Wilson wouldn’t spend a single second alone the entire weekend.

Noah, 6, on the left, and his brother Jonah, 5, squeeze their 14-year-old pup Wilson. Wilson passed away on Monday, July 8, but not before having his "best day ever" thanks to the kindness of strangers.

He went to a boat launch in Milton and got in the water, something he rarely did. He sat on the dock for an hour and stared out over the bay. He went to the store, on car rides and to the park.

On Sunday, when Rampersad had to work his shift as a firefighter at the Milton Fire Department, his family came and brought Wilson to hang out at the station with him one last time. They snapped a selfie.

“He just went everywhere with us,” Rampersad said. “He never left our sight.”

Stephen Rampersad poses for a selfie with his beloved dog, Wilson, on Sunday, July 7, 2019 at the fire station where he works in Milton. Wilson passed away the next day, but not before having his "best day ever" thanks to the kindness of strangers.

Shaggy’s Restaurant treated Wilson like royalty 

On Monday morning, Rampersad woke up with the dreaded feeling in his stomach, knowing that he would be taking Wilson in that night. He decided to take him to Pensacola Beach and get some photos for his last day on earth.

“We were just going to walk in the sand, and I was going to let him do whatever he wanted,” Rampersad said. “But we never made it that far, because when we got over the bridge, I got a call from Shaggy’s.”  

In addition to his job as a firefighter, Rampersad also works as director of maintenance for Executive Landscaping in Pensacola. A manager at Shaggy’s, a restaurant on Pensacola Beach, called Rampersad to ask him if he could come meet them about some landscaping services they needed done. Rampersad said yes, but he had one request.

“I said, ‘Hey, this is going to sound really bizarre, but if you don’t mind me bringing my dog, I can come right now because I’m already on my way to the beach,’” Rampersad said. “He (the manager, Adam Gully) said, ’Well, we are all dog-friendly, and the girls will take care of Wilson so we can walk the property and they can have lunch.’”

Rampersad got to Shaggy’s and brought out Wilson from his truck, who was slow moving but happy to be out and about with his human. He had already explained to Gully that it was Wilson’s last day, and some of the servers approached Rampersad and asked if Wilson could eat anything he wanted. Of course, Rampersad said.  

The next thing he knew, one of the servers brought Wilson a big bowl of vanilla ice cream, which the dog lapped up in seconds. Next they brought him a big, juicy cheeseburger with all the fixings, and a full plate of fresh French fries.

Then came the bacon.  

A Shaggy's employee gives Wilson, a 14-year-old Pointer mix, some slices of bacon on Monday, July 8. It was Wilson's last day on earth and his humans wanted to make sure he had a great last day.

“One of the girls brought him a whole plate of bacon, and she said, ‘What dog doesn’t like bacon?’” Rampersad said with a laugh. “The kitchen staff was wondering why she needed a whole plate of bacon.”

In between courses, the servers at Shaggy’s would come and pet Wilson, scratch him behind his ears, rub his belly. They’d tell him that he was a good boy, that they loved him, and that they hoped he liked the burger. They showered him with affection and attention.

“Wilson was just over-the-top excited about it all,” Rampersad said. “Every time food came up, his ears would perk up. The servers, the whole staff at Shaggy’s, everybody was so nice. They were asking how we were doing. It was comforting that so many people loved him, and they all went out of their way to be kind. I think that’s what really touched me about the people at Shaggy’s, is that they went out of their way to be kind to us in a world where people aren’t kind for no reason.”

After Rampersad finished his landscaping meeting with Gully, and when Wilson had finished his four-course feast, the Shaggy’s staff said their final goodbyes to the dog they had just met, but had already fallen in love with. Rampersad said he had a hard time keeping it together.

“It was incredible, what they did,” he said. “It made my heart happy that at a time when I was really struggling, they were there for me and for Wilson.”

Wilson, a 14-year-old Pointer mix, gets lots of love and attention from employees at Shaggy's Seafood on Pensacola Beach on Monday, July 8. It was Wilson's last day on earth and his humans wanted to make sure he had a great last day.

Amber Cooke, the assistant general manager at Shaggy’s, said they often have dogs — and even cats — come to the restaurant with their humans, and they were more than happy to have Wilson as a guest on Monday.

“Our employees knew it was going to be his last day, but they were very excited about the fact that they could be a part of it and make the situation a little bit more special for the owner and the puppy,” Amber said. “We’re definitely a family restaurant, and whenever someone brings in a pet, we treat it just like any member of their family.”

Moving on without Wilson constantly by his side will be hard, Rampersad said. He’s had his dog longer than he’s been married to his wife, longer than his kids have been alive. His family is devastated, but comforted to know that Wilson’s last day on earth was, undoubtedly, one of his best.

“There aren’t a lot of times in life when you can say, ‘Hey, somebody did something really great,’ or, ‘Hey, somebody really took the time to be kind and make something special,’” Rampersad said. “But this was one of those times.”