I remember the day I met Walt as if it was just yesterday. My friend Joy accompanied me to one of the kennels at Dairyland where we met Linda. I was adopting my 2nd greyhound and both Linda and Joy knew my first greyhound Rush well. My criteria for this second dog were few: I wanted another male, as I’d never had a female dog, he would need to get along with Rush and not be likely to challenge him for the alpha position, and he couldn’t be a brindle, I’d never seen a brindle dog that looked good in it’s coat up until that time.
Linda easily handled my first 2 criteria showing me only males who were omega boys. She didn’t know about my 3rd criteria and in retrospect I’m eternally grateful that I never mentioned it to either her or Joy. I don’t remember exactly how many dogs I was shown that day, I only remember two. A beautiful boy that I passed over because his coloring reminded me too much of the dog I had lost earlier in the year and Walter.
Walter was a lean, long-legged brindle boy with a gorgeous black muzzle and ears that stood perfectly erect on his head. The best description of him at that moment was that Walter was a proper gentleman. He was a shy boy who did not approach on his own but never took his eyes off me. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him either and to my amazement when I thought about it later that day the only thing that I remember seeing was his wonderful face. The fact that he was a brindle was completely lost in my mind’s eye. When the kennel owner/trainer came in Walt’s entire persona changed. He got happy, started wagging his tail and was bouncing up and down like a child who had just been given the Christmas gift he had wanted and been longing for all year long. At that moment I decided that Walter was the boy for me. While I’d seen the silly side of his personality I decided to continue to call him Walter because he was so elegant, reserved, and refined.
When Walter came home he continued to be his shy, elegant, gentlemanly self, picking a spot in the living room behind my recliner for his “during the day” location and settling into a small space between my dresser and the closet door for his night-time spot. These remained his for his entire life, only in the last few years and then only occasionally could he be found lying somewhere else. While he wouldn’t take treats from me unless I dropped them on the floor for him to pick up and I had to be sitting down before he would approach his bowl and eat his meals. He became my “watch dog” greyhound. He would bark at the window whenever people walked in front the house or cars pulled into the driveway. During my two week holiday vacation Walter finally started to take treats from me and approach me more willingly for pets and affection.
After the holidays I started taking the boys to meet and greets. Walter hated them and despite the fact that I continued to bring him along with me every month for years his behavior really never changed much. He would hide behind me and back away from people who tried to pet him or hide under the table I brought along. There were only a few times at these functions that Walter seemed to forget where he was and what was going on. The first time was when he first met Kimmy, a greyhound in foster, in February and then the second time a month later when Kimmy was again at the meet and greet. Watching Walter’s behavior when he was around Kimmy was a big part of the reason I brought Kimmy home forever from that second meet and greet. Kimmy was Walter’s "heart girl" and with her I think he felt he had a purpose-to take care of her and protect her. This was only too evident on our first walk together when Kimmy came home. A small dog came running across the street to meet us and big, shy, reserved Walter jumped out in front of Kimmy and barked and growled at the interloper until he turned and ran home. It was the only time in all the years Walter was with me that I’d ever seen even a hint of aggressiveness in his temperament.
After Kimmy's arrival Walter's behavior changed, at least around us in the house or the yard. While he didn’t cling to Kimmy, he seemed to feel more comfortable and confident with her around. He became a bit more gregarious and bouncy. His actions were reminiscent of the display I had seen with the kennel owner the day I adopted Walter. He also started rubbing himself up and down on my clothing every morning as if to mark me with his scent in order to tell the world that I was owned. It was at time that I started calling him Walt or Walty. While he was still reserved, shy, and elegant in public he was a totally different boy with us at home and I got the feeling that while I had signed the paperwork to adopt three greyhounds by this time, it was only Walt who felt he need to show me that he had adopted me. If I left everyone in the yard and walked out to get the mail or pick-up trash it was Walt who made a big display of coming over to greet me when I walked back inside the fence. He would follow me around the yard when I did clean-up and he would stand close to me whenever we stopped on our walks.
The years passed all too quickly and before I knew it Walt’s face was white and his red brindle coat was also fading to white. He always loved to lie in the sun and relax after a short trot around the yard in the warm months, he equally enjoyed a brief romp in newly fallen snow, but most of all he enjoyed going for a walk whether it be short or long. There were only two things that Walt disliked, thunder and fireworks. During storms and on July 4th he would abandon whatever spot he was reclining in for the safety and security of the bathtub where he would fall asleep and wait for the noise to be over.
He grew sillier around me at home over the years but would never show this side to anyone else, although he did become a tad bit more social with people who would come to our home. In the beginning he would simply bark at them from a distance and then retreat to his spot in the bedroom for safety but later he started to venture out and actually approach people he knew and allow himself to be petted.
When Kimmy passed away in May we were all hit hard but Walt was devastated. Just as he seemed to be bouncing back a bit in July we were dealt another blow with the loss of Stinger. Walt spiraled downward again. Knowing that there could never be another “Kimmy” as far as Walt was concerned I introduced him to a new sister in the hopes that a female would make life a bit better for him and all of us. Tina came into our lives and did help to make Walt’s last months with us happier. When Walt went to the bridge to be with his heart girl he was 4 days shy of his 9 year anniversary with me. His brothers, Rush and Wrigley, and his new sister Tina were with him and said their goodbyes as I said mine.
Walt, enjoy the sun and the shade at the bridge. We know you are happy again and running with both Kimmy and Stinger and that you will all be there waiting for each of us to arrive in our turn. I’m sorry it took so long to write this for you, it was a difficult labor of love to get through. You are much missed but never forgotten. Until we are together again…
With our love always,
Kathy, Rush, Wrigley and Tina