Volunteers and foster family to many, Dan and Andrea met Walter in November of 2011. Walter had some challenges, and needed quite a bit of work, but just as this family did over and over again, they wanted to help the dogs no one else would. On January 20th, 2012 Walter known as Alex at the time, became their foster dog, and later became their “forever dog”. We were very saddened to hear the news that Walter has passed away. We are beyond grateful to Dan and Andrea and their daughter Paige for bringing a dog into their home who needed guidance and love that only this family could provide for him.
“I’ve struggled this week to even start this email. I can’t quite put it into words all that Walter was to me, to Dan, to Paige, to Niels (he was his service dog) and to Hazel along with 30 other little foster brothers and sisters he guided into our house. Walter told us when they were comfortable, when they had relaxed, when they trusted, and when they were ready. But the word that comes to mind always with Walter is that he was my heartbeat.
I met him at the rescue and he didn’t have the best reputation. My husband worked with him only because he wasn’t fully figured out. He sort of had a little bit of a rap sheet. I remember seeing him every month at the rescue, last one at the end of the barn before you went to the field. Always jumping against the gate. I didn’t get it, I didn’t realize what a heart existed in that boy. My husband, who often tired of my relentless desire to foster, worked with him and said “that needs to be our next foster”. I thought..oh dear god…you’re nuts. He has a bit of a bad rap, and there is no way he’s coming home with us.
On we went and fostered others. Then my daughter’s friend wanted to come help one day and that meant more managing of the girls than it was getting the dogs out for exercise. Since Dan wanted to foster Walter, I decided to take him out and check him out. To get a feel for who this dog was. I was cautious. Walter was not. He wanted and demanded attention, love, touch…all the things that a velcro GSP needed. He had me at hello. He had Dan at hello. Even our dog, Hazel thought he was an okay dude. He never challenged for top dog. He always wanted to engage with the people and the pack. He had such a sense of who he was .
So home he came as a foster (never foster in Dan’s eyes. Similar to Niels most likely). It wasn’t without issue. We didn’t give him the time to decompress after life in a kennel. We let him have free range of the house when we went to work, and he ate the leather couch, not once, but twice. Our fault. Not only that but we took him in the car and left him in the back of the 4Runner on a cool day while we took our daughter in to school. He ate the back of the 4runner and as we walked out to the car there was a loud speaker at the school that someone needed to come get their dog in the car as he wasn’t happy. We held our head in shame walking to the car through the halls of the school. One of the yard ladies continued to look down on us every single day for the next 6 years that my daughter was in that school. These are the funny times and absolutely told us he was ours. The anxieties passed as he realized he was home and we could leave him in the house without issue as he relaxed.
He was there for everything. Every moment he could be a part of who he was. He was the family dog . We ran like crazy. Saturdays we’d go out and run for 8-13 miles. He did it all. He was an incredible athlete. To the day he died, even having degenerative myelopathy, he was an incredible athlete. The disease came and I don’t want to focus on that because it isn’t all that he was. But even with the disease, he ran in his wheels 30 miles a week for a very long time. He was an incredible athlete always.
Because of the disease we had to make that choice. That gift to him to let him go. We know he is with Niels, and I know that Niels greeted him with a million kisses. He surely wanted his service brother back to help him navigate the bridge until we are with them. Niels left big and left us giant rainbows to remind us of him. Walter left gently and left us with butterflies to remind us of him. They both were rescue gifts and both worth taking a chance on. We can never replace these gems. They were so much for us. Thank goodness for rescue for committing to both and leaving them with us to care for and love all their days we had them. They are and were so loved”.
We are so sorry for such a tremendous loss. We know this must have been so difficult to write, but we are so glad you shared this with us. Walter was so special and we just love what he (and Niels) represented. Sometimes when we get a dog in that has some challenges, we look at a dog and think “how are we ever going to find a home for them” We remember their stories. Of course, you and your “tribe” aren’t just an ordinary home – but if you exist, so do others. Walter was loved beyond measure. He really was a beautiful soul and we are so grateful he found your family.