Wally the Wonderdog once fell off a mountain, avoided euthanasia by less than an hour, ate a trout that fell from the sky, survived an encounter with a fast-moving truck, and barely avoided a drowning at the hands of two pissed-off raccoons.
He’d dodged fate so many times it seemed he was going to live forever, but mortality makes tourists of us all, and Friday evening, Wally the Wonderdog laid down behind the porch and left us.
Tomorrow I’ll pretend I’m not crying while I dig a hole and lay him to rest. Later, I’ll explain to my daughters that their big, tail-wagging friend won’t climb up into the car and lick their faces the next time they come home from school.
I think it’s going to be a long weekend.
Wally recently struggled with arthritis and the side-effects of his anti-seizure medicine, and for a while, things had grown dire enough I’d stopped taking him on fishing trips.
After we juggled his medications, he got a lot better, and life had returned to normal. I honestly thought we had plenty of fishing trips left, but that’s a largely human conceit; you never know when the last anything is headed your way.
Still, I’m grateful I got the chance to boost him into the truck and go fishing a few more times, especially given that — like a lot of the Undergrounders — Wally only really came to life when surrounded by wilderness.
If fact, I once joked that he was 80 pounds of gristle, fur and joy, but the real joke is that it wasn’t a joke.
It’s not possible to remember Wally without mentioning all the crazy shit, including his assault on Burger King or his frequent attempts to drag home big chunks of dead animal.
Once I was on the phone with a reporter, staring out the window at a driving snowstorm, when Wally wandered with a frozen, snow-encrusted squirrel in his mouth.
Then there was the day the UPS driver made a delivery and was halfway down the road when he noticed the Wonderdog sitting in the cargo section, apparently happy to take a tour of the neighborhood.
You simply can’t fake style like that.
Wally’s superpower was that he was filled with the joy of life — and pretty clearly wanted you to be too — and for a human who can sometimes get a little grim, he’d become more than a good reason to knock off work and take a hike.
When the choice was between going fishing (or hiking or skiing) or staying home and working, Wally came firmly down on the “let’s go find something dead to roll in” end of the spectrum.
Today more than ever, we need more Wallys in our lives.
We first took Wally in because we were afraid he’d be taken back to the pound and killed if we didn’t, and if that’s all you knew about his story, you might think we saved him.
But you’d be wrong.
What we did for him was simple. What he did for us was priceless, and the debt is mine.
I wish I had a few more years to pay it.