RIP Tony the Dogfather Waters
FRIENDS of Tony The Dogfather Waters who died recently after a long and courageous battle against liver and colon cancer, hope to ensure his animal sanctuary continues and a legacy of his devotion to the animal welfare cause will live on for many years to come.
The former hairdresser passed away late on Friday, at Bahrain Specialist Hospital just days after stepping out on a fundraising ‘Dogfather’s Limp Along’ with friends to help raise funds for his Saar shelter, home to scores of abandoned and unwanted cats and dogs.
Looking frail and leading the way, he joined friends who brought along their own dogs or walked one from the Dogfather’s Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.
After the event, everyone was treated to refreshments and live music where guests donated bags of dog food and funds to the cause.
Music played a big part in his life too and amongst his many supporters were celebrities, including international singing star Joss Stone, who called in to lend him a helping hand before performing on stage in 2015 as part of the Spring of Culture concert series.
In recent times, chart-topping Sandi Thom, who recently moved to the kingdom, has performed shows to raise awareness about his work and support his efforts.
She described herself as a ‘huge supporter’ and called him a ‘dear friend’. “Tony has been a pillar of the community now for so many years,” she added.
Believed to be in his early 70s, Tony did not like to talk about his age and always joked with friends that he was ‘29’.
Tony moved to Bahrain from England in 1985 and came to prominence following a cover story and full page news article about his astonishing animal sanctuary endeavours that appeared in GulfWeekly in February, 2007.
Marie-Claire Honeywill, former GulfWeekly assistant editor and now the afternoon host at Studio 1 FM Radio Saudi Aramco, originated his nickname when she wrote the first ever article about his work with animals back in 2007.
From when he first took in a dog called Fatso nine years earlier, the ‘family’ had grown to 65 rescued animals. He had also found homes for 160 other pets.
She wrote: ‘The one thing that’s impossible to miss is the joy every single animal feels as soon as they see Tony, and why not?
Each of these dogs has his own rescue story and Tony is the conquering hero in their eyes.
Some have been rescued from cages, others have been bought from unkind previous owners or found frail and terrified, abandoned on the side of the road.
‘Tony has created a haven for the underdog and as such has well and truly earned the nickname of ‘The Dogfather’.
Those words were plucked from her final sentence and used by editor Stan Szecowka as the headline on the page … and the name stuck.
Marie-Claire said after hearing the news about Tony: “It’s a sad day for Bahrain as a whole and animals especially. He was a hero to all our furry friends and I’m proud to have given him his nickname.”
Without question his memory will live on. Sandi said: “The shelter is being managed by a committee of people chosen by Tony to carry on the good work and will remain open and operational. Plans are also being put in place to build a park for the strays to reside in, which was also one of Tony’s dreams for the strays of Bahrain.”
From that day on everyone referred to him as Tony The Dogfather. He leaves behind a son Ben, 48, and daughter Sarah, 42, and Yaqoob Yousef, 53, who says he was adopted by Tony. They issued a joint statement saying: “The creation, development and success of the centre stands as testament to his selfless love and devotion to the animal community of Bahrain and was his greatest motivation to fight until the bitter end.
“We would like to give tremendous thanks to all the generous donors, volunteers and all those who have personally helped him with his brave battle over the many years since he was first diagnosed.
“As per Tony’s wishes the centre will continue to carry out his legacy and dreams under careful guidance. Therefore, it is more important than ever that our donors and volunteers remain steadfast and strong in the wake of Tony’s death and continue to support the centre.”
Friends gathered at the Bahrain Rugby Football Club last Wednesday evening to celebrate his life and pay their respects.
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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