Meet Wilson, A Survivor

Wilson has been a survivor since his days as a puppy. The goldendoodle was born to a breeder and soon picked up by his new family, only to be returned when he was about 10 months old because he was experiencing seizures regularly. 

“They couldn’t pinpoint a cause,” Jodi Tarver, Wilson’s current owner, said of the seizures. “They were going to euthanize him because they couldn’t figure out what was causing them, but then they noticed the seizures were getting less and less.”

Soon, the seizures had mostly resolved and a relative of Tarver’s came to the breeder to pick out a dog for their family. They were told Wilson was available for free, although they couldn’t guarantee his health with his history of seizures. They decided to take a gamble on him, and he’s been seizure free since.

A few years later, Wilson again had to prove himself a survivor when his home in Ottawa was struck by a tornado on February 28, 2017. Wilson and his two dog brothers, Rufus and Gunnar, were home alone at the time, one owner at work and the other out of town on business when the storms hit.

The tornado tore about 80 percent of the roof off the house, causing considerable water damage that left it uninhabitable until repairs were complete. Once the owner, Tarver’s sister, made her way home, she had trouble even getting to the house because of all the debris.

“Once she got to the house, she found the dogs, got some clothes and came straight to our house,” Tarver said.

That trip to the Tarvers’ house started yet another new path for Wilson, but no one knew it at the time. In the aftermath of the storm, Tarver’s sister found a place to stay while their house was being repaired, and one by one Rufus and Gunnar returned to them. At one point, she joked that if the Tarvers wanted to keep Wilson they could, to which Tarver jokingly replied that they would love to keep him. 

What started as a joke soon became a reality, and Wilson, now 6, moved into the Tarvers’ home in Shorewood for good shortly after the tornado, joining Tarver, her husband, Rob, and their two sons. Today, he’s one of the family’s three dogs, and he loves to pal around with his dog brothers, Murphy and Rusty, both mini goldendoodles.

Wilson is a bit of an attention seeker. When visitors come to the house, he’ll grab something from nearby — whether it’s a shoe or a towel or a sweatshirt — to give to them as a welcome gift. And he thinks nothing of jumping up to place his front paws on someone’s shoulders for a hug.

If he isn’t getting the attention he wants, he’ll just sit in front of you until he does. And being as big as he his, he’s easily able to make his presence known.

“If we are laying in bed, he’s just the right height to sit next to you and breathe in your face,” Tarver said. 

He loves a good walk, but he likes to hold his own leash in his mouth when he’s out and about. And when he can’t hold his own leash, he’ll grab Murphy or Rusty’s.

Wilson also enjoys trips to the dog park, particularly Lower Rock Run Dog Park in Channahon. He loves to run along the fence line and greet new dogs that arrive. It’s also an opportunity for him to run freely with Rusty and Murphy.

As fun-loving as Wilson is, there are a few things he isn’t crazy about, namely fireworks and thunder. A storm or Fourth of July celebration will send him running for shelter.

“He goes and lays in the bathtub — no matter if it’s occupied or not,” Tarver said. 

Above all else, Wilson just likes a good time.

“He gets along with everyone,” she said. “Wilson is very friendly. He just wants to play.”

(Photos by Chad Merda and Chris Cheng)



Wilson is one of the many fabulous pooches from the Forest Preserve District of Will County's dog parks who will be featured in our 2020 dog park calendar. All proceeds go to the Will County Humane Society.

Sales have ended for the calendar. We'd like to thank the hundreds of people who purchased a calendar and supported this great cause.