Walter the day before he died.
On Monday, December 1, 2015, Walter Turgeon, A Great Pyrene’s cross breed, died at home surrounded by loved ones, with scent of his favorite cookies, Gingersnaps, baking in the oven. He was thirteen years old.
Walter was born on a farm in Pine County, Minnesota, over thirteen years ago. His mother was a fabulously irresistible Great White Pyrenes. She was the belle of the neighborhood and produced a litter of puppies each year. His father was obviously a smitten red-head who was less than highly principled.
Walter had a bit of both of his parents in him. He was fuzzy and had big brown eyes like his mother. However his orange coat, white tip to his tail, orange eye lashes and freckles must have come from his sire.
Walter the day we brought him home.
At eight weeks of age Walter and his litter mates were given to the Pine City Pet Adoption Center. That is where we first met him.
Our German Shepherd, Penny, although still quite young, had very severe hip dysplasia. She had been a birthday gift to our daughter after the loss of another German Shepherd, Crystal. The veterinarian had just informed my husband and me that Penny would need to be put down relatively soon. Her pain was getting worse and when we could no longer keep her pain under control decisions would have to be made. We didn’t want our daughter to be without a pet again, so we decided to start looking for another dog.
Walter and Penny
One day on a lark, on the way to mail our tax forms, we decided to go up to Pine City to look at puppies. We threw the forms in the back seat and headed north on the freeway. My husband was quite clear and repeatedly stated that we were only going to look. When we got to the pet adoption center we walked up to a pen filled with puppies. As I was petting other puppies, I looked up and there was my husband, walking out of the pen with a big golden puppy on his shoulder. He just looked at me and said, “I am rescuing him.”
After paying the adoption fees, we all got into the car with Walter in the backseat with our daughter. He was sitting on the passenger seat side. From that time forward, that side of the back seat was his. No matter how big he grew, he eventually weighed over 110 pounds, if you sat on his side….he’d sit on you.
The trip home from Pine City takes about an hour. During the drive we were all trying to think of the best name for this new little golden angel of fluff. Doug had always wanted to name something Walter. First some puppies on our farm when we were dating, and then our children. During the discussion we heard the puppy start to get sick. As the puppy threw up all over our tax forms and our daughter was screaming “Gross”, my husband grinned and said, “See, he’s a good Republican.” Yes, at that moment I knew…we finally had our Walter.
The first person to welcome Walter into our neighborhood was neighbor Don. As I sat on the front step that afternoon with the puppy on my lap. Don was walking into his house, stops, points at the pup and askes, “What’s that?” I replied, “It’s a Walter.” Oh, boy, was he a Walter!
I have always said that he was my heathen, he showed no fear and rules just didn’t seem to apply to Walter. In thirteen years, Walter never saw a garbage can he couldn’t get into, met a person he didn’t jump on, met a baby whose face he did not lick, learn to heel without pulling on a leash or see an open door and not run away. He could be outside all day, and as soon as my husband would take him for a walk he would poop, my husband swore it was on purpose. My husband swore a lot around Walter. As a puppy, Walter’s favorite toys were my bras. He’d find them in the laundry and drag them all over the house. Yes, there were times when I found them outside. I was quite sure that the whole neighborhood knew my bra size.
No fear! No Rules!
Walter knew his name all right, but would only come when he wanted to. He loved to run away. When he ran away he would only come back for our daughter. After she went off to college, he would only come for our neighbor’s daughter Felicia. One very early Sunday morning before church he saw an opportunity for freedom and took it with gusto. To catch him, I had to wake up the neighbor and Felicia in pajamas came outside to call him. As soon as he saw her, he did a full 180 degree turn at full speed and rammed her. That girl could hang on to that dog through anything.
Freedom to run!
He loved to dig, hated baths and reminded me of the character of Pigpen in Charlie Brown comics. He loved rolling in mud, digging in mud and laying in mud. One lovely spring day, my husband covered my whole raised garden with rich black peat moss. We were going to plant the garden that very afternoon, but first we decided to give Walter a bath.
As baths went with Walter, it was a strange experience. He just stood there quietly as we shampooed and rinsed him. He looked so very handsome. The neighbors were outside watching and we were all praising him for being such a good boy. As I let go of his collar he immediately took off at a full run without hesitation, made a circle around the yard like a jet on approach to a runway, lined up his trajectory and hurled himself into all that black garden dirt. Landing on his back, he skidded down the whole length of the garden. It was then he started to roll. When he exited the garden his revenge was complete…he looked like a black lab. His performance was met by the stunned silence of the spectators.
Then, too, there was a bit of the violent felon in Walter. One day our daughter had her college roommate over. She was afraid of the dogs jumping on her friend. So, Angela went into the bathroom and our daughter ran the dogs outside. As the girl’s visit ended, our daughter wanted to put the dogs back into the house, before they left. Angela again went into the bathroom and our daughter grabbed both dogs, ran them into our bedroom and shut them in.
My husband beat me home from work that day and when I got there he said we needed to have a talk. He then explained that the dogs had been locked in our bedroom all day and that we would need a new bedspread, because apparently our daughter did not notice that one of the dogs that she ran into the house had brought a live rabbit back in with him. We both knew it was Walter. The dogs then committed bunny murder in the bedroom, there was bunny fur and bits everywhere. I can only imagine that it was because of the guilt they were feeling over the bunny homicide that they then tried to commit suicide by eating 15 large Hersey candy bars, paper, foil and all, that I had purchased as Christmas gifts for my Sunday School class. Our German Shepherd got so very sick and hundreds of dollars were spent to make him well. Walter pooped a lot a foil, but never even burped.
Walter could eat anything and usually did. Yes, he would swallow young bunnies whole and you could see them move in his stomach. His bunny farts were the worst! He would eat turtles, shell and all. The only time he got sick to his stomach, until this month when he was failing, was when he opened the Lazy Susan and ate a whole package of shredded coconut. He was smart and never made the same mistake twice. My coconut was forever safe…nothing else was, just the coconut. Just last week he got into tub of Oatmeal and ate the whole thing.
After Penny died we got another puppy to be a companion for Walter, a white German Shepherd from German Shepherd rescue. We named him Truman. Truman was to Walter what Oodie is to Garfield the cartoon cat. The best example of their relationship was illustrated on one morning when I had the dogs outside in the backyard. I was watching them through my kitchen window as I did dishes. They were playing chase so nice. All of a sudden Truman stopped on the south side of the maple tree to urinate. Walter immediately went to the north side of tree lifted his leg and pee’d on Truman.
Walter and Truman
Yes, Walter was an excellent communicator of his feelings. For instance, once Doug and I went out, left the dogs home and somehow forgot to put the garbage away. When we got home, Walter had garbage spread all over the kitchen and dining room. On the very top of the mound of garage, he had taken a very large poop. There Walter stood quietly by the patio door, with absolutely no remorse, patiently waiting to be let outside. After assessing the situation, Doug calmly turns to me and says, “I think he just told us to f-off.”
The last Walter story I will share occurred when a construction crew was re-paving our street. The re-pavement project was a very contentious city issue as the property assessment charges were very high. City government officials had had been beset by many an angry citizen, but I think Walter with his excellent communication skills expressed our city’s residents collective sentiments on the project the best.
As the road crew was working in front of our house, Doug and I decided to take the dogs for a walk. The supervisor for the project walked over to chat. No sooner did he stop by us than Walter walked over to him, lifted his leg and pee’d all over the man’s boots and pant leg. When he was finished, Walter sat pretty. The fellow figured even the dogs were mad. Walter had never done that before, nor did he ever do it again.
There are some people and animals that just seem to be born with an especially strong life force and Walter was one of them. For all of his faults, and there were many, he never growled at anyone, he loved everyone and his clowning, most of the time, brought laughter and joy.
Walter always loved his milk bone treats, but I always knew through all of his barking, begging, food stealing, pooping and peeing that the greatest treat was all the chaos and fun he brought to our home. I will greatly miss Walter, he truly was one of the great dogs.
Walter is survived by Truman. His owners Pat and Doug and his very special girl our daughter. He will be missed by many neighbors and friends.
Rest in peace my friend.