I will never forget the moment they placed you in my arms. I lowered you onto my lap, and all of your weight melted into me. You finally found a place to rest. We loved each other already.
You’d been through so much before we met. You were born and raised in a puppy mill, where someone made you believe that all men were cruel. A family rescued you, but they brought you back to the Humane Society after having a baby. I’m so sorry that happened to you.
Maybe your past made you uniquely qualified to be my Walter. You knew what it felt like to hurt and were sensitive to my pain during depression. You were right beside me during my lowest lows, sometimes the only living soul I wanted near me. When all I wanted to do was sleep, you more than accommodated my desire. You sat with me without judgment through many orders of cheesy bread and hours of Netflix. I hope you forgave me when depression made our walks shorter, when I had less love to give.
You only had eyes for your mommy. No matter whose lap you were sitting on, if I walked into the room, you wanted me back. It always reminded me of that first moment at the Humane Society.
I remember the first Auburn tailgate I took you to, when you were so scared of the people around you that you stayed in my lap all day. (This did not improve with the few subsequent tailgates.) I remember wondering during the huge ice storm how the snow could be whiter than you. A couple of years ago during the big December snow, I got us all bundled up to take a walk through the winter wonderland at our house. You decided you’d rather pee in the bushes right outside the door and refused to look anywhere but the doormat. You precious love angel.
I remember the ridiculous short haircuts after I’d let your fur get tangled, how after every trip to the groomer, you’d go from shaggy old man to a pup. I remember your snores and the way you’d paw and whimper when you had bad dreams. (At least we always thought they were bad dreams—maybe you were actually kicking doggy butt while you slept.) You thought you were about ten times bigger than your actual size, until the other dog engaged and you scurried back to me. Today the doorbell rang three times, and you got three last chances to let the bad guys know that a big dog lived here.
I remember how patient your cousin Bella was with you. I’ll never forget the time I looked in the rearview mirror in my car and saw that you’d shoved big Bella against the door in the backseat. You’d laid down next to her so that she had to sit upright, with almost the whole length of the backseat unoccupied. “Doggy Jesus” was good to you.
I think your Granny and Papa’s house was your favorite place. You had your own special sofa and your favorite rug to make pee pee surprises on. You loved being off leash, and you loved your Granny and Papa. By the end of your life, you finally stopped barking at Papa when he had the audacity to walk by your sofa or stand up from his kitchen chair.
Purely by chance, we discovered that you loved scrambled eggs. Your Granny gave you your first egg treat. She always stood at the same spot by the kitchen island to crack your eggs, and you eventually thought that you were getting an egg every time she got anywhere near that spot. This morning I made you eggs for breakfast. I’m so happy that your last meal was your favorite.
You told me last night and this morning that you were ready to go, in many ways. You were agitated and in pain, but you climbed into my lap and licked my face with all you had. I knew you were telling me just how much you loved me. I looked at your face as you fell in and out of sleep and told you just how much I loved you. Looking into your sweet eyes was like looking into the eyes of God, somehow soft and fierce at the same time. At one point you looked so convicted. I told you that you could go if you wanted to. That was our real goodbye, there on the couch.
When we were almost home, I saw that little white poodle in the car next to us. It was staring right at me, so intently. We held each other’s gaze for a long time. Thank you for using that doggy to let me know that you’re still watching over me. Thank you for knowing I needed to hear from you.
My Walter, Walter F. Puppies, Walter Pups, Walt, the Pups, my big boy, Walter Lancelot Cuzzort: I love you so. I spent the past three months getting ready for this day, and I wouldn’t have been ready no matter how much time we’d had left. You were God’s precious gift to me, exactly what I needed. I hope you felt very safe, very happy, and very loved. You were a good boy.
I love you,