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Priest and pet dog to visit Las Vegas church for 16-city tour

In November, the Rev. William Miller found out his dog, Wili, had three months to live after cancer had spread through his lymphatic system. Eight months later, the two have been driving across the country — dubbed the “Last Howlelujah Tour: Wili’s Barket List,” and the duo’s last planned stop is this weekend in Las Vegas.

“He has far outlived that initial diagnosis,” Miller, rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Covington, Louisiana, said. “The Last Howlelujah Tour was an idea I had maybe six to eight weeks ago. It would give us time to hang out and be together and enjoy each other because we know with his condition, every day is a gift and every breath is a moment of grace.”

Miller, author of “The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul” and “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God: The Whole and Holy Truth About Lager, Loving and Living,” will give the sermon at two services on Sunday at Mountain View Presbyterian Church, 8601 Del Webb Blvd.

During an evening meal and book signing, Miller will give a presentation on his journey with his beloved 12-year-old terrier mix.

Mountain View will accept donations at the dinner, which is open to the public, that will go to the Animal Foundation in Las Vegas. Miller has been raising money at each tour stop to benefit local animal welfare organizations. So far about $7,200 has been raised.

David Dendy, senior pastor of Mountain View Presbyterian, has known Miller for years, so he was eager to invite him to end the tour here.

“We’re thrilled and honored to have him stop here.”

A friend of Dendy’s and Mountain View congregant Daniel Neel happens to be chief finance and development officer at the Animal Foundation.

“We love to partner with other animal lovers,” Neel said. “We want to be a supporter of his work, but we’re just thrilled he’s supporting ours as well. I can tell you that our 21,000 animals that were saved last year will benefit greatly from any donation that comes out of this.”

Shane Jensen, the church’s administrative assistant, said about 115 had signed up for the Sunday’s dinner by Wednesday. Salads, pasta, sandwiches and cakes will be served.

“We would love to have as many people from the community as we can,” Jensen said.

A special part of the book signing will be Wili signing books.

“He will “pawtograph” the book,” Miller said. “I have a stamp print of his actual paw print.”

The Howlelujah tour started outside of New Orleans, where Miller is from, and the duo will have visited 16 cities across the South by the time they hit Las Vegas. They have been to churches, breweries, restaurants and bookstores Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

Miller said he adopted Wili — whose full name is Nawiliwili Nelson — as a puppy while living in Hawaii. Though Wili’s illness played a large part in inspiring this tour, he said he wanted to spread awareness of animal welfare and tell the stories of his journeys with his other dogs, too: Sam, Sinbad and Lili.

“Dogs have been a really important part of my life for a long time,” Miller said. “I think they reveal so much of the creator’s wisdom.”

Contact Katelyn Umholtz at 702-383-0279 or kumholtz @reviewjournal.com. Follow @kumh0ltz on Twitter.

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