FLINT – Winnsboro native Bill (Billy Ray) McFarlin and his beloved orange Brittany Spaniel, Star, enjoyed 15-1/2 years together – many of those years were spent in the spotlight.
Star and McFarlin, son of Nonia Dell McFarlin and the late Bill McFarlin, earned national recognition when Star was cast on the “Barney, the Purple Dinosaur” show and then on the CBS series, “Greatest American Dog.”
The duo also performed in agility competitions all over the country, visited schools, hospitals and nursing homes, and raised money for humane societies.
McFarlin, a 1965 Winnsboro High School graduate, lost his friend last Wednesday afternoon.
This is what he posted on his Facebook page:
Tonight there will be another Star in the sky over Texas – The Rainbow Bridge will change to a brilliant orange color.
(“The Rainbow Bridge” is a poem written to ease the pain of losing a pet.)
Today Sherrie, Bryan and I said our goodbye to Star, the Greatest Brittany, who entertained the world, made millions smile and loved every moment of her 15-1/2-year life.
Our lives have been enriched by this bright and shining Star. We were so blessed to have Star.
Thank you, God, for such a special loving companion that we got to share with the world.
I hope that when you think of the orange dog, Star, a smile comes to your face.
McFarlin’s page quickly filled with tributes to his beloved furry friend.
Michelle McBee wrote: Orange was just another color ‘til I met you.
From Hope McDonald: Star was an amazing girl with an amazing owner!
Laramie Wedemeyer wrote: I don’t remember a time of being with you when Star wasn’t tagging along.
She has been such a life-changer in so many people’s and kids’ lives, from preschools to nursing homes, she showed so much love to so many.
Nancy Saxon Walters, 1963 WHS grad and fellow animal lover, said: What an honor to be blessed with such a wonderful dog. The world is a better place because of you and your orange dog
Valerie Evans said: Looking at Jupiter-the most orange thing in the sky … thinking about one Star.
BARC, the Humane Society posted: The world has lost a beautiful soul today. Our hearts go out to Bill Mc Farlin and his family as their beautiful orange dog, Star, has shot up to the heavens. Bill and Star wowed America when they appeared on the TV reality show “America’s Greatest Dog.”
Bill’s down-home personality, his love for Star and Star’s amazing tricks made them worldwide celebrities.
BARC, The Humane Society is privileged to have called Bill and Star friends.
From performing at BARC fund rasing events to donating food, their good deeds will never be forgotten.
There is a bright orange Star shining over Texas tonight. God speed, Star.
Heidi Craig summed up Star’s life: We miss you, sweet girl! You had an amazing life, full of adventures, far more than many people or dogs have ever had.
There are many grieving hearts from all over the world. My thoughts and prayers are with Bill and his family. Shine bright, sweet Star.
“Star learned so quickly,” McFarlin said of his best furry friend. “I had to read dog training books to keep up with her. If I had not read all those books, I wouldn’t have recognized that Star alerted to my wife’s low blood sugars.”
Of their visits to hospitals and retirement homes, McFarlin said, “Star was full of life and excitement, but we would stop at the door of a retirement home or hospital room, and I would tell her where we were. Her attitude changed to a soft and gentle dog that cared for everyone there.”
Star’s fame wasn’t limited to North America.
“Last year, my new pup, Z, and I competed in the Frisbee world championship in Tennessee,” McFarlin remembers. “I drove up to the site in my car that has logos and pictures of Star on it. A Japanese man came running to my car and was jumping up and down, screaming in his language, which I did not understand. Finally he ran over to the car put his arms around the picture of Star and said, ‘I watch-a your movie I love ya Star.’ There were no boundaries for Star.”
After she retired from agility competitions, Star became McFarlin’s public relations director, entertaining customers as he did pressure washing for them. Star had been losing weight for some time, so she and McFarlin “had a talk about quality of life. We made the decision to ‘let her go’ and not suffer any more.”
McFarlin stayed with his friend until the end.
“I held Star ‘til I felt her last heart beat,” he said Monday.