Walter Sings the Songs of his People.

WM3dogs
Walter, Tomboy, & Preacher Man supervising chores.

My friend Sarah says, “All dog stories end the same way.” I know what she means. None of us humans are getting out alive either. There is nothing remarkable about death. It’s as common as dirt.

Disclaimer: No tissues allowed. Really, this time especially, if you are going to get all maudlin on us, just stop reading now. This is not a sad story.

I haven’t written about Walter for a while. He’s a Corgi who came here from Wyoming to rescue us from the peaceful quiet of the prairie 18 months ago. His previous family found him ridiculously energetic and totally lacking an indoor voice, so naturally he settled in here fine. He’s taken up duck mind-control and lure coursing.

Walter had an appointment to have his teeth cleaned last summer. During the routine blood test, his liver numbers were 400 times higher than normal. I thought my heart would stop. But Walter, always one to look on the bright side, didn’t have to get the tooth scrape after all. Not a bad day.

In the next weeks, he lost 4 of his meager 20 pounds. He was thin to start, so he lost muscle. His little heart-shaped backside became boney, a tail appeared, and his ears are wider than his shoulders.

We changed his diet to a special home-cooked concoction that is both time-consuming and expensive. Walter gets 4 or 5 meals a day, over 6 cups. He’s on a variety of scary meds, timed awkwardly. Now feeding involves math skills but most of the weight has returned. Of course, Walter would like you to imagine the joy, the absolute bliss, of following his human into the kitchen and getting fed every single time. Not all the dogs, just him! How great is that?!

There were two liver maladies possible, one that’s manageable with medication and one that’s terminal. Biopsy results were slow returning from the lab because Walter manages to have both of the conditions. A year later, he doesn’t let it get in the way of his master plan for a bunny-free farm.

When Walter was celebrating his one year Gotcha Day, we received a call from the Corgi Witness Protection Program (Read here) about a Texas corgi who over-spoke to his rescuers and needed a verbally tolerant home. Preacher Man joined us. I worried at first that it would be hard on Walter in his diminished state; maybe they wouldn’t get along. Silly me. They immediately recognized each other as twin brothers from different puppy mills and the party started.

The non-stop chatter is back; the sing-song hum, the corgi-quack, the how-oo-ling. I feel Walter following so close that his chest bumps my foot each stride. They both saw a pattern and wisely decided to call truce in the Cat Wars. When I notice my blue rug turn corgi red, I know every hair trapped there is one less hair on my clothes. And sometimes when the thrill of the 4th or 5th meal is too much to bear, Walter nips my backside. It’s understandable, I think his butt is pretty cute too.

The Dude Rancher and I would like to say that there is less barking. It wouldn’t be true. They egg each other on a bit but we’re teaching them to whisper. I would like to say that it’s a huge success. It’s more like a work in progress but the Dude Rancher and I are whispering more.

And if the coyotes are at the pond, Walter and Preacher Man join in, with snouts high and ears dropped. They close their eyes and yodel the prairie opera with reckless soprano abandon. What’s a little barking but praise of life?

WMnapontop When Walter first came here, he was human-starved. Holding him on my lap was like holding a spit-filled hurricane. He was too excited to do anything but lick and spin. Preacher didn’t spin on my lap. He was more like an out-of-water Walleye but with the same passion for lap dancing.

But now being close is more of a slow dance. Sometimes we have a nap for lunch. There’s an initial scurry to see who can get the coveted place closest to my head, but Walter and Preacher Man both stretch out on my torso and we dog-pile. We steal a half an hour and as I come awake, sometimes we are all breathing together. One of us might snore. Other times I can feel a heartbeat in my chest so close that I don’t know whose it is.

Here is my one dog training tip: When they ask for my attention, I give it to them.

Some of my friends who know Walter’s diagnosis think he was lucky to find us. Hogwash. I think it’s the other way around. We are the lucky ones, schooled by someone as filled with live-fast, love-hard joy as Walter. We aren’t getting any younger either.

Walter 1Walter has us all right where he wants us. Sometimes he leaps on a visitors lap with a wide-eared innocent look and a big smile, and asks, “Have you heard I’m dying?” It’s crazy but people think that makes him special and he works it for all he’s worth. Smart Boy.

Please don’t feel sorry for Walter. We are riding the fast train; we are living for the moment. One day he will be gone and it won’t be news. But we do have big news today. Walter is barking to high heaven and zealously alive.

Dying is sad and ordinary. Bark more, whine less. Walter thinks living is the art that matters most.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

55 thoughts on “Walter Sings the Songs of his People.

  1. What lovely prose on Walter and Preacher Man! Maudlinity – if that’s even a word, does not sit well for me either as we run the river of life, finally spilling into the ocean of stars. We have a Corgi as well, Thomas Dylan, who I gave to my parents (Corgis were their choice of dog) in 2004, knowing that he would be ruling me after their deaths – mom at 85 in 2007, dad in 2011 at 85. And Tommy came with my dad to our hour late 2010, because my dad wanted to die in our house in the woods, not a hospice place for him.
    Tommy is too, a voiciferous fellow who is an incessant soccer player. He is now 10 years old and in my dad’s word, “indefatigueable”. I lately have become irritated with his overall commanding bearing, he bosses my pitty mix 13 year old girl & my 4 year old, 125 lb. Kangal without mercy – I feel sorry for them. He herds my golf cart when out doing chores, explaining the whole time in shrill tenor voice what to do. He is truly a large herder trapped in a somewhat chubby 25 lb body (his stature is a bit small for the “standard”). His bright eyes are always asking, well what’s next? I know he wishes he were ONLY DOG as he was with my parents, but he is part of them, so part of me, so will eventually spill from life’s river into that ocean of stars with my parents, never leaving me and my 7 other much larger pack. I will be taking your story about Walter to read frequently, whenever Tommy gets on my nerves as it showed me the other way to love and think about all the Corgi ways, and to remind me that those ways can be fleeting. Thank you for yet another thoughtful and wonderful essay!

  2. ktcorey@reagan.com

    Oh, Wow. Every thing you wrote moved me deeply. When I take naps with the puppies (Lucy, Oakley and Baron) they jostle for position closest to me and I can feel their souls in their heart beats.

    This blog really touched me. Thanks.

  3. They are so stinkin’ cute! I lost a sweet, silly female Stumpy/ACD to terminal liver disease. We got five really great years together and I know for a fact that she had fun right up to the end. We didn’t know she was sick until only a few months before she was gone, but I wouldn’t do anything different. Losing her so young taught me the importance of living in the moment. Here’s hoping you and your “boys” enjoy an abundance of special moments together every day!

  4. Coy Freeman

    I could hear your boys barking while I was loading up to leave Tuesday evening. I kept reaching in my jeans to answer my phone. I have assigned a ring-tone to a daughter that APPARENTLY is a corgi bark. I thought she was calling me over and over again.

  5. What a lovely, thoughtful, positive reminder that only now exists, and the most precious thing we can give and receive is attention. We can give ourselves when it hurts our ears, when we need to nap, when our last nerve forgets the incredible bounty of thankfulness. Thank you, Anna.

  6. Dawn Wilson

    I did get all maudlin, and even hugged that pesky cat closer and longer this morning, in her peskiest time. I never comment, as I’m usually all maudlin after reading all your blogs, but you can be sure I look forward to your new blogs, reading each one with delight. We are of one mind, so nice to have found a kindred spirit (most just think I’m the crazy animal lady). So glad I found your blog and wish I lived nearer so I could have your horse (people) advice in person. Keep up the great work!
    PS. Tell Walter those bunnies are looking at him sideways…..

  7. Mary Anna

    Love the blog and Walter and Preacher Man, who is Tomboy? He looks Briard maybe? Thank you so much for such lovely writing and such heart felt stories.

    MaryAnna

    1. She is a braird, and she isn’t very feminine… hence Tomboy. You’re right, I haven’t mentioned her much. A very smart girl. Thanks for reading.

  8. Cat

    As always, just about perfect. I really, really like your way of expressing so many marvelous themes that resonate with me. Thanks!

  9. Tauna Grinager

    Thank you for your lovely writing! We too have a dog (English Shepherd) with chronic liver disease. There is no telling how long he’ll be with us, though he does continue to improve. Same as you, some have remarked that he’s lucky to have us. But I feel I’m the lucky one. To get those reminders to enjoy each day as it comes, and all that he’s taught us about health. BTW – he was given a very poor prognosis with no clue why this happened or what exactly was wrong. We found an amazing holistic/Eastern vet. While going over the timeline, she helped me put it together that it was his rabies booster that did this. With the herbs, acupuncture and homemade food, he’s doing quite well for a dog that was on death’s door a year ago. Well enough that he’s learning new chores and satisfying his farm dog drives!

    1. Thanks for the comment and I am not surprised to hear the vaccine connection. the stuff drives me nuts too. Best wishes for a great summer. Party on.

  10. Jenn

    I used eo to be a pediatric oncology nurse, the kids seem to intuitively know that lif is short, so they play hard. Good on ya, Walter. Carry on.

  11. nancy berg

    I have a border/aussie/farm collie mix who is not bossy but very vocal about my throwing her ball and getting dinner on time. Happily she is only 5 and healthy, but I just lost a very good human friend to cancer. Your posting was very timely and your friend Sarah reminded me that everyone’s story ends the same. I did get teary, but more for the loss to me than for any who have passed before, as they are not in pain, wherever they are. I looked for some photos of this very vibrant woman and came across some wonderful pictures of my 2 dogs who are no longer part of the earth. It was such a treat to see them again.

    1. I am sorry for your loss, being the one that is left is another subject, and glad for your photo reunion with them, along with the reminder that they LIVED. For what it’s worth, there is an entire other octave for dinner time around here too.

  12. Debbie McGee

    I have a beautiful corgi girl who barks at me joyfully as we do agility together. She also barks at me if I make a mistake:) She had pancreatitis twice last year and was very sick. I now cook for her following Dr. Becker’s book on making food for your dog. My girl is now feeling better than ever, still running agility and barking with enthusiasm the entire time. There is nothing like the love of a corgi!

  13. What a lovely story, Like Walter, you really have the right outlook on life and I love how you look at things from their point of view, absolutely hilarious. I love your humor, its observant, sharp and touching.Thanks for blogging Anna.

  14. Nancy Tetrick

    Pounced on this because we are secret corgi people, having adored three of them. Our Wallace was found to have cancer when we—yes—went to have his teeth cleaned. Somewhere, due to a stray who followed me home, we also became border collie people. We live to be herded. The stray, now with me over 12 years, is maybe 14, and her body is old even if the rest of her is all the same. A few years ago we added a rescue BC, and oddly, and Shiba Inu. Also, my maiden name is Blake, I lived some years in Colorado….how could I resist?

  15. Anna,
    Living with such a Corgi gift as Walter is something that many human miss out on in their lives….love, love, love your writing “Dying is sad and ordinary. Bark more, whine less. Walter thinks living is the art that matters most.”
    Live in the art of living, Walter and Anna will be along for the journey with you.
    Corgi on!

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