Walter the Wonderboy

I don’t have pets. It’s not because I don’t like animals. I just don’t like the extra work and responsibility. Sure, I loved Smokey and Ginger, the cats we had when I lived with my parents as a teen. But Mom fed them, attended to them, and made sure they were safe. I let them sleep on my bed, warming my feet.

I have never been a “dog person.” Dogs require walking, and who wants to get out of bed at 6:00 AM in the middle of a snow storm to go outside with a dog?! Not this chick in a chair! I know those of you who do it will be eager to tell me all of the benefits gained by having a dog in your life. I am aware of the love, companionship, security and empathy one can find in a dog. For me, those benefits have never outweighed the work and expense involved. I’m a bit selfish, you see. I spend 49 hours each week managing my own personal care and the thought of having responsibility for another living being is more than I can handle. Plus I find time spent with people too enjoyable to understand those who willingly leave a party so they can go home and take Fido out. I am far too self-centered to be a dog owner.

However, there is a dog who has stolen a bit of my heart. My sister Caroline, who is graciously hosting me this week while I am on vacation, has three dogs. Molly, an inquisitive and playful German Shepherd; Samantha, an energetic Olde English Bulldog puppy who hasn’t quite figured out my wheelchair; and Walter.

My sister and brother-in-law own their own business, which they run from the office attached to their house. My bed is in the office so when I stay, I am up before dawn. I lie in bed listening to the coffee pot perk.  In warmer weather, the birds sing outside. I hear my brother-in-law stomping up the stairs.  I know this means it is 5:30 AM and cover my face with the sheet because I know what will happen next.  Sure enough, here it comes.

Walter’s face, as I see it first thing in the morning.

There is a face next to the bed. Walter looks at me with those deep brown eyes as he noses his face up under the sheet, eager to tell me he is awake and ready to start a new day.  He knows I will scratch his head if he pushes it close enough to the hand I’m using to protect my face from his tongue. I hate dog kisses on my face. I know, I know – you love waking up to them. You probably also like exercise, kale, or other such nonsense.

Walter is less insistent and more focused than Molly, who can’t help but get involved in everything happening. Molly follows everyone from room to room, never wanting to miss a moment of potential action. Maybe you’ve seen the Disney movie Up, and are familiar with Dug, the talking Golden Retriever? Dug is easily distracted by squirrels (and everything else). Walking Molly is what I imagine walking Dug would be like – investigating every potential source of fun, chasing anything that moves, doing anything but the business intended. This is not to say Walter is not curious, but Caroline’s walks with Walter are much shorter and less frequent than her walks with Molly. Walter knows what is expected, and delivers on cue.

Molly, sharing her perch with one of Caroline’s kittens.

I have watched Walter grow from a fuzzy twelve pound puppy with floppy ears and big feet to one hundred pounds of German Shepherd majesty.   Walter, whose name means “powerful warrior” in German, is one of the most loving dogs.  He knows that if he nudges my right hand off my joystick it will end up between his ears and of course I will have to pet that soft tan head.  He sits next to my wheelchair, head on my knee, looking at me with those big eyes and I am helpless to resist. I run my hand through his fur, speaking silly sing-song words of praise and love. Do you ever wonder what dogs really think of this human behavior?

Molly and Walter
Molly and Walter, as a puppy, sharing a sunbeam.

So, I have fallen in love a little with a big dog.  I tolerate his hair on my black pants.  I sneak him morsels of meat off my plate at the end of meals.  I let him drool on my slippers when he brings me the tennis ball for a game of catch.  And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Just don’t ask me to walk him before sunrise.


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