In Memory of Wally
The world lost an extraordinary Shih Tzu today. His name was Wally.
Samantha Meyers |
Posted: Jan 3, 2014, 9 a.m. PST
At age 18 Wally was not the oldest dog on record, he didn’t have any special talents, he didn’t save any children from a burning building, he didn’t like rainstorms and hated having his photo taken. He was a dog, our dog – and a part of the family.
Wally was supposed to be a pet fish. My family and I went to a pet store to pick out a fish and found Wally with his furry face smushed up against the glass, greatly discounted because he had been there long beyond his brothers and sisters. Despite his sweet disposition we left the store without him. We left the store without him several times. We had never bought a dog from a pet store, in fact we were rather against it, having gotten our previous dogs from reputable breeders and rescue. We watched as he got bigger and his price tag got lower, and we made the decision to bring him home, a decision I could never regret, but certainly wouldn’t condone today.
He lived a relatively normal life; he was happy and surprisingly large (a whopping 20 pounds). He was smart and did well at obedience class, but had selective hearing. He liked to watch the world from a window next to the front door. He was a bit of a Houdini; able to gracefully escape from enclosed areas with no evidence of how it had been done. I once witnessed him hop from the ground to the toilet and onto the bathroom counter where he tip-toed past the sink, and over the gate – I never told him I knew his secret. At night he slept under the covers at the end of the bed, and I would make an air hole for him in the sheets out of fear that he might suffocate.
In his early years, he was my friend, but he was my mother’s dog. She was the "alpha” in the house: keeper of the food, giver of the discipline, taker of the walks. He loved her the most and for her became a replacement for my sister who had gone off to college and eventually for me as I did the same. Not a day went by that my mom and dad didn’t have a funny Wally story to share at their work. How he slid down the staircase like Superman, or how he loved to steal socks, or how he flattened himself under the bed whenever the vacuum cleaner came out.
He was a funny dog, filled with personality that in his later years turned to grumpy demanding. He was a dog who knew what he wanted and he wasn’t afraid to bark or growl until you complied.
At some point into his double digits years his hearing and his vision began to fail and his legs wobbled under him, but he still had no problem telling you exactly what he wanted. It was at this point that he became my father’s dog. My father has had two knee replacements in addition to several other surgeries and had lost some of his own hearing. We often joke that his compassion for Wally was his less than subtle way of letting us know you should not give up too soon on someone just because they appear to be falling apart physically. My mom continued to be the feeder, the cleaner and the caretaker, but there was no doubt that my dad had become Wally’s best friend and best protector.
Wally required eye drops and eye gunk removal, a daily routine that he despised. He would gnaw at my father’s helping hand with his partially toothless mouth in protest, but my dad simply responded with Wally’s favorite: kisses on the cheeks. If he limped, my dad would pick him up and limp along himself with Wally in his arms. They watched TV together and fell asleep on their chair together. My dad, who had worked long hours most of Wally’s life, and had been the first to say we didn’t need a dog, was the one who fought hardest for him in the end.
Age takes its toll on all of us, and at the end of his life Wally was nearly deaf, blind, had difficulty walking and suffered from dementia. There were several times we thought his time had come. He often slept so soundly that we would need to check him for signs of breathing. I am convinced he had discovered some form of hibernation that was no doubt prolonging his life. Unsure of how long to let him continue in his state, my parents had many discussions with their veterinarian and waited for the signs that Wally was simply done.
It was a difficult decision, but the signs finally came. It is hard to think about putting any dog down, and while 18 years is certainly a long and well lived life, it is that much harder to put down a dog that has been a member of the family for 18 years.
Wally watched me make my first friend in middle school, saw me off to prom, was there at my visits from college, my first job, and was there for all my wedding preparations just a few months ago. Having moved away, I didn’t get to be there for him in the end, but I told him in my last visit that I loved him and sent my parents with a kiss for him at his final goodbye.
How do you say goodbye to a friend of 18 years? I guess you write a story about his life and what he meant to you and hope that he gets to read it on the other side.
I love you "Wally the dog,” I hope there is a window for you to watch the world.
Samantha Meyers is a lifelong animal lover and managing web editor of DogChannel.com
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