Farewell, big dog

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So, one of the last actions of the asshole year 2017 was to take our beloved big dog Wally from us. Wally was 12, so we’d been steeling ourselves for his passing, but you’re never really prepared for them to go. I am grateful that if he had to die, it was at least in one of his favorite places – his “grandma” Susan’s house.

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Wally was a very special dog and just about everyone who spent any amount of time with him probably has a story. He was mischievous, shockingly stealthy when it came to stealing food off the counter, but a genuinely sweet and gentle dog. He loved to snuggle close to you and one of his true joys was sleeping on the bed. He always felt like he had to ask permission, which usually came from resting his chin at the foot of the bed and staring at you with his sad eyes.

Susan rescued Wally after he turned up on her friends’ property outside of Salem. When we later met these friends, they said it took them a few days to get Wally to come to them. Given how friendly Wally is, this spoke volumes of how scared he must have been. We were living in Portland at the time and had been considering getting a second dog to keep Smokey Joe company. Susan called us to tell us she had a “fat lab” for us to come meet. (It turns out that Susan meant giant dog, because Wally was definitely not fat – just ginormous.)

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Our early years with Wally were… challenging. The first year we had him, I wanted to give him back on numerous occasions. He was boisterous and out of control and none of the training techniques that had worked so well on people-pleasing Smokey Joe seemed to work.

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One of my favorite “early Wally” stories was when a friend came to visit us. Somehow, Wally had gotten upstairs and shaken her suitcase all over the landing (and broken the zipper on it). Then, the morning when she had to leave for an early flight, Todd had prepped coffee for her. She told us later that while she was drinking said coffee, she looked over and there was Wally – happily chewing on her toothbrush between his two front paws. This pretty much sums up what we were dealing with.

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Another favorite story from those early days was from a camping trip we took in 2007. We’d had him for not quite a year and we’d met up with a group of friends at a campground that had a special section for tents. We had the two campsites on the lower level and a family had one of the sites on the upper level. They had a few kids in the mix, two girls probably 11 or 12 and a younger boy, maybe 5 or 6. The girls had been super into the dogs, so as we were loading up the car, the dogs were tied up and the girls were petting and fussing over them, with the little boy hanging back a little unsure. On my next trip to the car, there’s my rambunctious big dog, sitting patiently, while the little boy is giving him a full body hug. I’ll never forget it, it was so sweet. Wally clearly had kids in his previous life.

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Wally stole all manner of food off the counter – steaks, bread dough, entire sticks of butter. For a dog as big as he was, it was shocking how quietly he could jump onto the counter – once literally right behind me. We visited a friends cabin (who had good dogs) and he broke into countless bags of treats and food. We had to come up with various protocols of closed doors, baby gates and childproof locks on cabinets to keep him out of the garbage, right up to the end.

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Wally generally wasn’t great with other dogs. I don’t think he’d ever lived with other dogs before because he was completely clueless about reading dog body language. He and Smokey Joe would get into various skirmishes because of it. So, when we wanted to adopt Austin, we were really worried that he wouldn’t accept the new arrival. But upon Austin’s initial tail wagging greeting, I think he genuinely enjoyed his new brother. The two of them lived together for three years with no fights and even ate out of food dishes side by side. It makes me happy that he was finally able to have a buddy.

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It’s pretty amazing how much you can miss a big quiet dog who spent the majority of his time sleeping, but we really do. I’m so grateful for the years we had with him and I’m glad we stuck it out. RIP, Sir Wallace. You are loved.

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