Walter and Jenny: A love story....

So it occurred to me recently...I've never told the story of how Walter came into our lives.

For those of you who don't know, Walter is my dog. And although I know I'm a bit biased, chances are real good that he is the best damn dog in the world.

When I found myself living alone with four little kids, sleeping at night was difficult. I rarely slept through til morning, oftentimes waking up after hearing something that could have been a branch falling, or more likely, was a serial killer cutting a screen on a ground floor window. I slept with a knife under the bed for a while, my really big Wustoff Trident butcher knife, and later switched to a metal baseball bat.

After a while, though, I learned the worst thing that was going to happen was a midnight visit from the Barf Fairy. Sleep started coming easier.

But when Big Daddy started taking the kids every other weekend...well, my mind had 48 whole hours of solitude to conjure up a variety of different evils. I was convinced that a rapist or murderer was figuring out my schedule, and knew which weekends it would just be me inside that little ramshackle house, sitting on a couch, weeping and watching CSI.

I was a sitting duck.

I needed protection.

By this time Big Daddy had purchased his designer dogs, and after being chased around a park one day by Secretary and the Ewok dogs (that's a funny story, remind me to gab about that one later) I decided that it was time. I needed a dog, and not just any dog.

I needed a big dog. A manly dog. Not a dog that you could attach to a pole and brush away cobwebs with, I needed a dog with some heft, some muscle tone. With a bark that would scare away all of the burglars and sex maniacs hiding in the bushes outside my house. Well, maybe just the burglars.

I didn't want my kids to grow up with their only dog memories being those of dust mops that growled and pooped all over a house (apparently one of the chores the kids have at Big Daddy's is to pick up poop around the house. I'm assuming it's dog poo, of course). I wanted them to have sepia toned memories of a big family dog, the kind that sits in the front seat with you and can see out the windows. The kind that runs next to you while you bike. The kind that lays its head on your lap and drools while you eat.

And so one night, I loaded all four kids and a couple of their friends into the truck and we headed towards the Humane Society.

It was time to meet our dog.

We looked at the puppies first. Of course the kids oohed and ahhed over them, and admittedly, so did I. Their little round bellies, soft paws, tiny teeth. And they smell so puppy-liscious.

But there was no way in hell I was getting a puppy. By this time I was learning to admit my shortcomings and the things I was not capable of doing. Raising a puppy was one of those things. I simply could not bear to think of cleaning up pee and poop, of getting up all night to let a crying puppy outside, of having to teach it all the things a dog needs to know. I barely managed to do all of that with my four human babies.

So we headed to the adult dog section.

This is the section that always makes me cry. Ever since I was a little girl and my mom would take me on trips to the Humane Society this was the room that would leave me fighting back sobs and trying to discreetly brush the hot tears from my cheeks. There's something so heart wrenching about the big dogs, sitting in their long cement kennels. The ones who come up to the front of their cells, wagging tails, eager looks on their faces...gahhh. And then the ones who just lay there, curled up in a ball, one eyeball warily looking up at you. As if they're telling you, "Look, lady. The last family I loved put me in the car and took me here. I'm cold, I'm scared, I miss my people. I'll look at you, but don't expect me to ever fall in love again. It hurts too much." So you see, I have issues with the Adult Dog Section.

But in we went. We ran into some friends of ours, a nice couple with two kids who were Charlie and Molly's ages. The dad is an older guy, very funny in that "I look curmudgeonly but I'm really a softie" way. We told them about our decision to get a dog. The dad looked me square in the eye and with his face completely somber said, emphatically, "Every kid needs a dog." I will never forget those words.

So we found a cute black and white dog, I think a Border Collie? Her name was Bella and she was lovely. We were just about ready to take her out and see how she did with the herd of kids when she bit Henry. Not hard, but not just a little nip, either. With the number of kids I have running through my house at any given moment, a dog who bites would be inviting disaster. Bye bye Bella.

We walked further down the row of cinderblock kennels and learned from a staff member that they had just received several Yellow Labs from a rescue. Some dog-hoarder in Wisconsin had been busted and the Humane Society in our city took in some of the labs. Our friends, the ones who told me that all kids need dogs, had fixated on one beautiful Yellow Lab, a female named "Girl". "Awww you guys" I said, "She's so pretty!". The other Yellows were all boys, which bummed me out a bit. I was convinced that a girl dog was the way to go.

I started thinking that this wasn't going to be the day we met our dog.

Then the softie/curmudgeon dad tapped me on the shoulder. "You should look at the guy next to Girl" he said.

And so I did. The name on his card said "Boy", said that he was between 9 months/1 year old and he was a beautiful, smaller yellow dog. He was sitting on his haunches, leaning up against the smooth cement wall of his cage. As I approached him, his tail wagged halfheartedly across the floor...swish/swoosh/swish. His tail was wrapped up in a long white bandage, and there was a bit of blood that had seeped through the taped edges. "Oh Boy" I thought to myself, "what have you been through?".

We took Boy out to one of the runs to see how he did with the kids. He was gentle, and mellow. He ran and fetched and looked a little more lively than he did in the kennel, his bandaged tail wagging faster and happier.

The kids loved him.

And then, he took a break from the kid stuff and walked over to me. He sat down, leaned up against my legs and looked up at me with his chocolatey brown eyes. He sighed.

I melted.

You can guess the rest. Boy came home with us and that evening he became Walter. Why the name Walter? Not because of the book "Walter The Farting Dog" (although that definitely applies in this case). It's because I wanted to have a baby named Walter. When I was pregnant with William, I pleaded the case for Walter but was shot down. I vowed that someday, I would use the name. This was the day.

The very first weekend he spent with us happened to be a Big Daddy weekend for the kids. Walter and I spent 48 hours together, huddled on the couch watching seasons 1 and 2 of Weeds. We went for walks, I brushed him and we bonded over Chinese delivery and Mary Louise Parker. It was wonderful. By the time the angels came home from daddy's house, Walter had imprinted on my soul, and I believe I had done the same to him. From that weekend on, he was my shadow. He sleeps next to me while I work on the computer, sometimes trying to shove his 75 lbs. under the little work desk and my legs. He and I spoon in my bed, yes I'll admit that right here. I sleep next to a dog. He's my faithful walking partner, rain or shine, ice or snow he's always in the mood for a w-a-l-k (have to spell it lest he hears, ya know). Some of my best therapy sessions have been long silent treks through the parks and trails with my sweet boy.

It hasn't been all rose petals and violins, though. There have been many moments of frustration, disgust and woe when dealing with my dog. The tapeworm incident comes to mind first...nothing like seeing something alive come wriggling out of your dog's hindquarters. That about did me in. There was also the time I discovered that giving your dog scraps from an entire steak dinner isn't a bright idea. That's when we found out that dogs will often seek out the only room in the whole house with carpet to dispense of their projectile Hershey squirts. He has so many ear infections that I once Googled "putting tubes in your dogs ears" (you can't, by the way) but I have now become a master dog ear cleaner (and there are homeopathic ear infection solutions for doggies, by the way, let me know if you need the recipe). I've also learned the hard way to never leave anything edible on the counters; this includes sticks of butter, any sort of bread product or cooling pizzas.

He also doesn't like men or tall blonde women, go figure. I've decided that Walter is to me like the glass slipper was to Cinderella...somewhere out there is a man who "fits" my dog, and when I find him he may very well be my Prince Charming. Until then, woe is the suitor who makes any sudden moves around my dog.

Walter required almost zero breaking in. He came to us completely housetrained, and aside from that one unfortunate steak incident he's never once relieved himself indoors (there was that weird sprinkling in Uncle Lorie's basement that one time...sorry U.L.). He has never ever chewed anything other than his toys. He doesn't hump. He's not a crotch sniffer (he will spend a few seconds on your butt area if you have a dog, though). He is gentle and sweet with even the littlest, grabbiest of kids. He can be left alone for a whole day (as much as it kills me to do so) and when I get home I know I won't find a shredded couch or piles of resentful droppings.

When I get home, the first thing I see is his big juicy nose pressed up against the front window, his whole body shaking from side to side with excitement. He loves me, unconditionally. He has kept me company on some pretty lonely nights. All he asks for out of this relationship is food in his dish, the occasional ear rub and at least one side of the bed every night.

Every kid needs a dog, I once heard.

I think most women could use one, too.

A million thanks to my friend Whitney; dog-sitter extraordinaire and the official Walter photographer for the Hausfrau family.


  1. Crap Jenny. I'm totally sitting here freaking crying now. Dammit.

  2. I love that you love your dog. When I was little my biggest dream was to have a dog. My parents didn't get one until I was a senior in high school. Filling the soon to be empty nest I guess. I couldn't wait to graduate from college so I could get a dog of my own. I've had numerous since then and just like with kids each one is my favorite.

  3. Excellent. I am new to your blog. Not divorced or planning to be, but, girl, you can write and I am a fan! DeeDee in Missouri :)


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