Teresa Bailey Prout special for news and recording
Wally the Wonderdog was the best. His expressive brown eyes. His implied smile. His loyalty. His love.
He won our hearts. Easily.
But in one of those doggie poker games, I’m sure he would have lost every time.
He could never have bluffed. Its tail, a long black whip with white at the end, would have betrayed it.
Even when we first adopted him 11 years ago, his tail still told the story.
If Wally felt threatened or scared or if he had done something he knew he shouldn’t, it disappeared between his legs. His cock spent a lot of time there during those early years, until he understood what it meant to be safe and at home.
If he thought he had seen (heard or smelled) something interesting, he would go into a slightly elevated position. If he was sure he saw (heard or smelled) something interesting (the SQUIRREL!), he went full throttle with his paw and nose raised for emphasis.
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When Wally was happy – really, really happy – he lit his tail rotor. Around and around, fast, like helicopter rotors in “MASH”.
It didn’t take long to get the rotor tail started. One of my sons coming, perhaps, or the promise of a walk. But it was a sight to behold.
Then there was a tail movement. Just the last bit, seemingly with a spirit of its own, going boom, boom, boom. Wally might have been dozing on the couch when one of us walked into the room. Boom, boom, boom. Or sitting by the window when someone on the other side of the house called his name. Boom, boom, boom. Or look at me for forgiveness after he chews on my shoe. Boom, boom, very hesitant boom.
I always thought it was his way of saying: I love you. No matter what.
A few months ago, we noticed that Wally was in crisis. He always greeted us at the door when we got home. He came for a walk again when he heard me take his leash.
But now he spent most of his time in bed and he didn’t eat much. After numerous tests, the vet told us that his kidneys were failing and that it was not a new disease. He can’t hide it from you anymore, she said. It hurt to hear because I knew that was exactly what he would do.
We opted to have him treated at the vet clinic for a few days to see if it allowed him and us to spend a little more time together. He does not have.
And so, we brought him home to be euthanized.
Wally was a mess – smelly, swollen, unsteady on his feet. But he made it through the back door of the house, drank some water and even sniffed his plate of food before laying down under the dining room table. It was his safe place, where he would grab a Greenie, or maybe a shoe he was about to chew on.
I climbed under the table with him and we just looked at each other for a while. I petted him and gave him dog ice cream on my fingers. I told him he was a good boy – the best, really – and that I was sorry he had suffered so much. But that he would no longer have to suffer.
Wally groomed his paws and he licked my arms, never looking at me. And then I heard it, for the first time in a long time.
I will always love you, buddy. No matter what.
Teresa Prout is a longtime journalist and former editor of News & Record.