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To My Boy Walker...

Walker (December 3, 1997 to June 5, 2006)

I lost my four-legged son yesterday morning (6/05/06) at 4:35 AM. Although it seemed quick to me, in reality he had been suffering for quite a while as I look back on his situation and how much he had slowed down in his activities. My son hated it when I called Walker his 'brother'. I said the only difference was that he didn't speak English and he walked on 4 legs instead of 2.

His decline started out as a hacking cough that began about 2 weeks ago. I figured he had a cold but it was really a sign of his advanced heart disease. Nothing really could have been done for him.

I had noticed just recently that he had stumbled upon rising from a nap but I thought he was just like me when I wake up - stumbling a bit until I start moving around.

On Friday morning (6/2/06) I heard him whine at 4 AM and so I got up to let him out. In the meantime, I went to the restroom and afterwards, I went to the door to let him back in - most times he didn't like being outside very long and would bark to get back in. He wasn't at the door so I thought that was strange and wondered where he was. I called him and he came around the patio area and fell over like someone hit him. I screamed for my husband and told him I thought he was dead because I had never seen him do that before. By the time my husband got to the door, Walker was there, waiting to get back in.

His activity scared me so later on Friday when the vet opened up, I called them. They had Walker come in at 10 AM.

The news wasn't good - he was tested for heartworm, which was negative as I knew it would be - he was the only dog I knew of that the bugs stayed away from. But the vet told my husband that his heart rate was all over the place. She deduced that it was from his advanced heart disease. She said he only had days to months to live.

I knew from the beginning when I had Walker as a pup that Dobies don't have a really long life span - 8-10 years was about average for them.

I can't believe how Walker changed my life. I had always loved dogs but, heck, they were just dogs, with a dog's personality. Not Walker - I could see his thought processes so easily, and I likened him to about the intelligence of a 2-3 year old child. Some of the things he used to do reminded me of Lassie. His intelligence and humor (yes he even had a smile but usually used it when he knew he did something he wasn't supposed to - sort of 'look at my angelic smile') and his empathy when he knew I was sad or sick was a hallmark of just who he was.

He was very pack oriented - he hated to be put outside for very long. He would bark and carry on if left outside too long. Unfortunately, realizing that waiting for him to bark to be let back in trained him to do that nonstop until we acquiesced to his wishes and let him back in.

He had this habit of standing in front of the couch as I reclined and he would rub his body on my cold feet - I think he felt as if he was getting petted. My feet are really cold now and are not being warmed up by his short fur. He also loved coming into the bedroom and put his huge bear sized cold nose on any of my flesh that wasn't covered by blankets. It was fun to pretend to be asleep and have him watch my face to see if I was awake. He rarely bothered me if he thought I was sleeping - he would just stare at me. If he knew I was awake, he would take his large head and put it on my body, sometimes he'd even jump up to have half his body on me and half on the floor.

Sometimes my son or daughter would have Walker stand up on his hind legs and he would hug them. It wasn't a familiar stance for him, but he tolerated it and sometimes he even initiated it.

He was just like a kid - if he was being told to do something he didn't want to do, he would whine obnoxiously until he got his way. My daughter called it 'back talking'. Many times we told him to get into his chair and if he didn't want to do it, he would sit in it, looking piteously as if he was getting the ultimate punishment.

He loved going bye bye. We would occasionally go to the park, and he pretty much knew the way and would start whining before we got there. He was a great car dog - he never got motion sickness. Watching him run through the park was just awesome. He ran so fast and sometimes my husband and I would stand apart and call Walker back and forth, just to watch him run.

If I took him to the park, I would sometimes stop by the nearby White Castle's to get some coffee. The clerk would see that Walker was sitting there just looking at him, and they would give him a couple of sliders. He didn't like onions, so he would nose them off and eat the rest of the sandwich. My car would stink like onions for a while.

I rarely had to clip his toenails - he was always trimming them. I had a disastrous moment when I first clipped his nails, and I clipped a blood vessel. We had to get some type of powder to dip it in, in order to stop the bleeding.

We took him on a camping trip when he was younger, and when we had first gotten Princess. She was fascinated with his leash, and would follow him around as it dragged on the ground. That was a fun trip - especially when Walker got into the poison ivy and decided to lie on my legs and give it to me. I had those blisters all over my legs and between my toes - that was very hellish.

I've been noticing flies and millers in the house - it was fun watching him catch them. He would track them with that gaze he had, zeroing in on them and you could hear the chomp he made as his teeth came together hard.

He very rarely did anything a normal dog would do - he wouldn't get into the trash, wouldn't drink from the toilet - and in fact, he loved jumping up to drink fresh water from the sink - I think he liked the fact it was running. He never liked anyone watching him eat, especially Dakota, but he never had any fears about watching us eat, although we rarely gave him any treats. He was the only dog I knew that would look at the place you were pointing your finger at - instead of like a real dog, who would look at the tip of your finger.

He loved getting a neck hug from us. He would back up to the place where we were sitting, and then I would wrap my arms around him, and be cheek to cheek with him and I'd whisper in his ear that he was mommy's boy and how much I loved him. I would say "I love my boy" and then kiss his cheek. He loved that kissy noise I would make. I think it reminded him of when he was a puppy, sucking milk from his mom.

About 2 years ago, we decided to get a miniature pinscher - we named her Dakota and she was Walker's little imp. At first he didn't want anything to do with her, but after several months (yep, he was hardheaded) he started to warm up to her and I would watch this 70 lb dog play so gently with this 7 lb dog. He would take the front of his teeth and chew at her neck and spine - almost like a masseuse would do.

He protected her, too. When she was little, she would run toward the street - but with Walker around, he was able to herd her close to the house and away from the street. He knew it was dangerous and now that Dakota was in the family, it was his job to protect her just as much as he would protect us.

Dakota would lie on her side, looking so blissful as he did this. He rarely opened his mouth on her; almost knowing that to use his incredible jaw strength would kill her. He would sometimes body slam her, but she was always so quick that it wasn't something that we worried about. He was truly a gentle giant. If he was a bit too rough on her, she had no problem letting him know about it and he would back off.

My husband always said I made him into a wimp (after all, he would give up the right of way to a chair to a cat) but I think he was just so passive - as if he knew that he could control the situation, but it just wasn't that important to him.

When he was young we taught him that he was never to use his teeth on us or any human. His baby teeth were just like small needles and he loved using them on my then 9 year old son. They wouldn't be huge bites, more like nips, but it would make my son cry. Then Walker knew he was in big trouble. After a time, he realized that if he licked my son in his mouth, that my son would shut up his crying, and mommy wouldn't hear and come punish Walker for his nips. This type of thinking followed him throughout his life.

He had a special chair - a queen anne that was his. He wasn't supposed to be in my husband's big rocker/recliner, but when we were gone, he would either sit in it, or in my place where I sit on the couch. He figured out that if my husband's chair was still rocking that it would 'tell' on him. So he would back his butt up to the chair after he got out of it, stopping the rocking motion. He would then lie on the floor as if he had always been there. I would chastise him gently telling him "hello, the chair is still rocking, so I know you were in it". I think he thought he was pulling one over me.

He loved the attention from his 'extended' family. My mother in law would just love over him, and when she came over, he was ecstatic. My friend would do the same to him, and I know he adored him as well. He had a gentle hand for Walker as well as a gentle heart. They became fast friends. One of his last meals was from his hand - pepperoni. Walker is now buried on his parent's property so I know he will be looked after.

I remember the first time I ever put him on a leash at 8 weeks old - we called him drag dog because he would just lay there with this unfamiliar 'snake' around his neck. We would call him by name, saying 'Walker, come', then slowly reel him in like some great big fish all the while saying 'come'. It really didn't take him long to know that this phrase indicated he was going to get some major praise and loving. Thereafter, I could take him anywhere without a leash, and absolutely know there was nothing on this earth that would stop him from obeying this command.

He picked up all his verbal and nonverbal commands so easily. He could speak, lie down, put his head down, sit, come, stay, go away, heal, and shake when we told him to, either verbally or with just a hand command. He was a great retriever. He knew who we were by name. I could tell him to go get brother, and instantly he would hunt my son down. Same with Sis, and daddy, and mommy. He would pull on command and we taught him to take our socks off by saying 'pull'. He would do it as long as I wasn't wearing hose socks. I think he was afraid of nipping my toes. Once he got the sock off, he'd shake it like crazy before I would tell him to 'drop it'.

The first chair he had was a powder blue queen anne chair that he would curl up on, his head propped up by the arm of the chair. His long lanky deer-like legs sticking out. After it became worn, we gave him a similar chair, with a mauve flower motif.

Towards the end of his life, he had this gentle snore that was rather comforting - I mean, how many people break into a home that has a dobie living there? I knew he would protect me with his life, and he showed me that over and over again, as my husband would hug me, making me squeal, and the dog would come over, using his loud threatening bark that would scare the fiercest criminal. He was more of a deterrent than he was action. I have no doubt he would bite a stranger if it came to that.

I was always afraid that someone would hurt him by giving him something bad to eat so we taught him that he was not to eat anything unless it was in his bowl (he had that bowl for 8 years) or unless we handed it to him, and said the magic word. If we handed him something to eat and didn't say it, he would turn his head away (even if it was his ultimate favorite food, cheese) and not eat it. We could even drop it on the floor and he wouldn't touch it. I have actually had food on my plate, gone away from it to another room, and come back having it untouched. He was just that disciplined.

My boy had a medical condition called cryptorchidism - he only had one testicle that was descended. I think his mostly passive personality was due to this fact. He was very very rarely aggressive. Although he was socialized with people (and he adored children) he wasn't really fond of dogs. He was raised with 3 cats, and sometimes I think he thought he was a cat. He was pretty protective of the oldest cat, who was brought into the household when Walker was about 1 and 1/2 years old. No one could mess with Princess without having Walker standing over them. We used to 'rough' up Princess, just to see Walker's reactions. I think it was fitting that just as Walker passed away, Princess and the other 2 cats, came up to him and touched noses with him as he took his last breath.

This weekend was just horrible. After we found out how bad Walker was I decided to feed him his favorite foods - chicken, hot dogs, cheese, bologna, pepperoni, raw eggs on his food. He wouldn't eat his regular Beneful, which is about the only food he would eat, so I added some beef broth and an egg.

He rapidly started getting worse during the weekend - his huge chest looked like a bellows, each breath laboring in and out.

My husband came home at 2:30 AM because he was having a toothache - he normally never comes home in the middle of a shift and I can count on one hand how many times that has happened in 25 years. He told me that Walker wouldn't respond to him and when I looked at him, smelled his panted breath, could see he was no longer with us. His brain just wasn't getting enough oxygen. He began to drool and you could see he was almost a zombie. At that time we made the decision to put him down. I called the 24 hour emergency vet and was told it would cost $160 to have him euthanized. I'm having money troubles at the present and didn't have it. I decided to wait on the vet's office opening up at 10 and beg them to help me.

I was so tired from staying up with him, watching him just walk around the house because he was having trouble laying down and breathing at the same time. He went into the laundry room, and I debated whether or not to shut the door to keep him from pacing. I decided against it because he doesn't really like being shut away. At 4 AM I just couldn't stay up any longer, but then I laid in bed for 15 minutes trying to calm down.

At about 4:35 AM I heard a scream and me and my husband jumped from the bed and ran to my daughter's room. (I had gotten both my son and daughter up at 3 AM to say their last goodbyes to Walker - I knew the time was close). She told she heard his breathing on the other side of her bedroom door, and she opened it up to let him come in and sleep in her room - he slowly walked in, the cats came up to him and sniffed at him. My daughter told me his leg looked bent at an odd angle and she thought he would do better if he would sit down. He did sit when she told him to. After looking into her eyes, he fell over, and death came over his eyes. That's when she screamed out.

We gathered up a tarp, and my husband, sobbing, wrapped him up in it. I put 4 large garbage bags on him, and we taped up his body. He was still very heavy, between 60-70 lbs, and so we got an old sheet out, put his body in it and carried him to the trunk of my car.

My friend generously offered to have him buried on his large farm and his mom told me that they had a pet graveyard nearby. It took my son and my friend about 20 minutes to dig an appropriate grave. I help rake dirt on the grave. I can't tell you how painful it was knowing he is in the ground and as I write this I am so devastated I can barely breathe. I always think I'm totally without the softer feelings, but how can I be feeling this way? I just want to die. I would give anything just to hear him, to hear his bark, to yell at him just one more time. And then hug him and tell him how much I love him. God it hurts so bad.

Sometimes I think I will be okay - but then I just break down again. I suppose that is normal. Grief sure does hurt. I hear that God doesn't put more on a person than they can handle but I wonder how can that be when there are so many suicides.

I know I will regroup - it's just very hard to cope right now. With as many dogs as I have owned, I know that Walker was truly special. He was a once in a lifetime kind of dog.

Tribute from Sis

What a life it's been. Walker, according to my mom, was my brother but I always thought of him differently. He was my babylove, my best friend, and my fellow conspirator.

I remember bringing him home from the breeder. Mom picked him out of the litter and she picked a winner. It was mid January and it was hectic for all of us. Just like any little puppy, although he as never really little like DK, he cried in the night for company. I obliged him and during the first week he and I slept together on the couch in the living room. During that week we bonded.

As the weeks progressed I house broke him and taught him to jump on the door if he wants out. This did causes some problems because as he got older he started making dents in the walls from his nails. So we had to retrain him which was no problem.

The thing about Walker was that he was incredibly intelligent. If you do something a couple of times he has learned it. Therefore I trained him with hand signals, noise, and of course, verbal commands. There was unlimited things you could teach this dog. He also taught himself. For example he, taught himself to open the sunroom's door once he was ready to come in. You were never really sure what tricks he was up to.

Walker was not allowed on the furniture. Did that stop him? of course not. But I did have something to do about it. Whenever mom and dad were not around, I would let Walker into dad's chair. He would ask politely to get up there. If I told him no, he would walk away dejected and slowly, as if it pained him, get into his own chair. He made such a big deal from it and you had to laugh at his antics. If you told him okay, then he would jump gleefully in dad's chair and sleep contently.

As mom said, he loved to go bye-bye, but more than that, he loved going on walks. He and I would walk around the block, visiting the neighborhood kids, and Darby (the only dog besides DK that he liked). Rarely was he on a leash because I knew he would never leave my side while in command (heel). Whenever we would get back to the house he would get playful and we would run around and have fun. No matter how strong he was, or how mad I got him, I knew he would never hurt me. I would get him snapping mad and then put my arm in his mouth. He would back-pedal so fast he almost fell over! Travis was the only one who could fool Walker into thinking he hurt him. I couldn't do it nor could mom and dad never tried. Walker would get so upset if Travis started crying (or fake crying whatever the case may be).

When he was a puppy I didn't realize the lengths he would go to to get to me. Playing around, I locked myself in the bathroom and started yelling for Walker. I was thinking that he would make a lot of racket, since no one was home but for Travis and I. Well it kind of backfired on me, you see, Walker started to dig a hole at the base of the door, ripping up carpet and some of the dry wall to get to me. Mom was furious when she got home and saw the mess, but I learned that he would do anything to help me, faking or not.

After mom woke me up Monday morning (around 3 AM) I couldn't get back asleep. I heard mom and dad go to bed and I laid there thinking. After awhile I came to a decision. I turned on the light and got dressed. As I reached my bedroom door I heard Walker outside it. My decision was to go out to the couch and sleep with him like the old days. Instead he came to me. Breathing got louder and more harsh and I followed him to the side of my bed. Sitting on the edge, petting and loving on him, I told him what a good dog he was and how much I loved him. The cats jumped on my chair which brought the nose to nose. I had a washcloth by my bed that I used to clean his mouth. All he wanted was to be near me, not for one moment was he not touching me. As I petted him, I could count every vertebrae in his spine and every rib. It was then that I prayed to God to end his suffering. As I looked down on him, I noticed his left front paw bent at a crooked angle. I though it might be painful so I told him to lay down, to get off his feet. Loyal to the end, he did what I told him. Once he did, his breathing got worst, scared, I gave him his release word. As he got to his feet, his eyes locked with mine, his back legs buckled and I saw the life go out of his eyes. He fell over and I knew he was dead. The last thing he heard were the words, "I love you, Babylove." After that I went screaming for my parents.

The only thing comforting me the most is the fact that he is not suffering anymore, and he is in a better place with Jesus. Walker knew he was well loved and that he will be missed terribly.

May you rest in peace, Babylove.

Tribute from dad

"Get away from me and go lay down"

Seven nights ago, Walker did what I've been telling him to do for the past two years, Every time I'd enter the room he'd run up to me with his tail stub wagging and his big dark eyes looking at me wanting a little (or alot) of attention, usually he got little or none. Seven nights ago, Walker died in my daughter's room.

I came home from work early due to a toothache, Walker battling for every breath he was getting, still came up to me, this time I did pet and love on him, I knew his time was short, the vet told me Walker had heart disease, at that time there was nothing they could do for him. Petting Walker that night all the times I told him to get away from me and to go lay down flood back on me, Walker didn't treat me that way when I had bypass syrgery in my battle with heart disease, he come up to me on my right side everytime time because I told him my left side was sore, he provide the reassurance that everything would be alright, I don't know how I forgot that, it was only three years ago.

I'll never forget the time I took Walker to work with me when he was almost two, we went into the control room of the power plant, the first shift operators and the plant's boss was there, Walker allowed everyone there to pet him and they all did, after ten minutes of the boss attempting to act like one of the guys and the tension in the room seem to be growing, Walker went over to the boss, turned, took a dump at his feet, returned to my side, Walker had no problem in letting you know when he had to go outside, this time he made the boss go outside, and we didn't see him the rest of the year.

Walker was a great car dog and loved to take trips no matter how long or short he loved car rides. A trip to the park, we have a park where few people went early, so Walker could run without a leash, he could cover some ground, his long stride was graceful, but he seemed happiest when he was next to our side, when my wife and I split apart in the field he run back to the other of us like he hasn't seen us in years.

Walker was a smart dog and a great teacher, not only was he able to learn but he did teach as well, I learned it's not a good idea to ride a bike with a dog running beside you on a leash, when he changes direction, the ground meets you real fast. I learned passive doesn't mean being weak, Walker didn't get excited about every little thing, but he had a bark that would stop you in your tracks. Walker understood english better than most people and used sign and body language to get his point across, no he didn't flash his paws around for sign but he did look and point with his nose where he wanted you to look. Walker's finale lesson for me was the most painful lesson. I've learned my lesson, Walker taught it too well, never again will that pharse pass through my lips to anyone or anything I love, what pharse? "Get away from me and go lay down".

Rest in peace Walker, run through the fields of Heaven, enjoy all the attention you deserve.

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