Walter: This Dog Lived

Walter was my birthday gift 2001.  He was the best bulldog that ever lived.  He died of neuroendocrine carcinoma, a very rare form of cancer in dogs, on January 28, 2013.  Below is a tribute I wrote shortly after he died.

During the past two weeks since Walter died so many people have reached out to me through text, phone calls, facebook, cards, donations in memory of Walter and some even sent flowers, I can not tell you how much that means to me.  The day that he died I said to my mom, “I can’t believe the number of people who have offered their condolences over what must have seemed to them, just another dog.”   Not that Walter was just any dog, mind you.  If you have ever had one of those special dogs, the one who knows you better than you know yourself, the one that only comes along once in a lifetime then you know what I am talking about.  If not, may you one day find one.  Walter was my constant companion, always with me wherever I went, whether I was running a quick errand, driving 12 hours to Georgia via dirt roads through Mississippi, or searching for ruins to photograph in the back woods of South Carolina; Walter was always there.  He was always patient, well most of the time as he really could be quiet bossy.   He was always up for a photography adventure and he didn’t mind waiting patiently for just the right light.  If I needed a shoulder to cry on, Walter was always there, never judging.  As long as we were together, we could be anywhere and be happy.   Walter was never anything other than what I wanted him to be and every day with him was perfect.  He was truly a special and amazing dog.

When he was two years old, we were at the vet for something that has long been forgotten now, something I am sure I freaked out over like a scratch on his nose or some other mundane malady.  The cure for that day’s ailment was “Special Attention”.   That’s right, right there on his medical chart it has always said “Special Attention”.  And it seems that is how he lived his life everywhere we went.

The night he died I was working on a blog post chronicling his recent trip to Georgia.   We had just gotten back several days before.  This time it was just Walter and me, Albert didn’t tag along because caring for Walter had become almost an all day event.  He was still in good spirits though and not in any pain, but was still adjusting from a sudden loss of vision only a few weeks before.  In early January we packed up for his last trip to Georgia, he was going home one more time.  We were supposed to go a few months before but I just felt that since the cancer had metastasized to his lungs making it difficult to breathe in high humidity that maybe traveling to south Georgia wasn’t the best idea.  But some things came together and I decided to take him January.  In Georgia, Walter was a rockstar and boy did he know it.  Never was there another place like Georgia where he could revel in his “Special Attention”.  After extending one trip way past the deadline we were supposed to come home, my dad called to tell me that “even the Beatles had to go home and rest at some point”.  I think that was the trip where he had ended up in a documentary about dogs in Savannah or maybe it was the one where he ended up getting his picture taken to be in a book one day.  It is difficult to keep it all straight because things like that always happened to him.   I know what John F. Kennedy meant when he said he was the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris, I was the girl who accompanied Walter to Georgia.

As we did during all the other trips to Savannah, we stayed at the Mansion on Forsyth Park.  Every time we would arrive the bellmen John and Steve would always ask how Walter enjoyed the drive as they waited for him to make his appearance.  They were always as excited to see him as he was them.  Having cancelled our earlier trip, they all knew that he had cancer and that this would be his last visit to the Mansion.   Oh and about that loss of vision thing, when we got to the Mansion he knew exactly where he was, he even led me to our room and knew where his crate and water and food bowls should be.  Typical Walter strutting around the Mansion as if he owned it.
Bulldog Savannah GA

Thank you to Angela Hopper of the Canvas Dog Studio for the photograph on the left, Walter in his bed at the Mansion.

Waiting for us, in our room, were gifts for Walter, Albert and me.  Walter and Albert each had a gift bag full of fabulous treats.  For me, they had the most delicious chocolate covered strawberries and a great bottle of wine as well as relaxing ice cream bath soaks.  But the most touching part was the hand written card signed by everyone at the Mansion offering their thoughts and prayers for Walter.
Hotels Savannah GeorgiaAutograph Collection MarriottMarriott Hotels Savannah

The week we were there could not have been more perfect.  It was in the high 70‘s, the streets were quiet and absent of the tourists who often asked to take a picture or have their picture taken with Walter.  On previous trips, when he was feeling better, this was his favorite thing to do.  I wish that I had snapped a picture each time over the years when someone stopped us to ask if they could have their picture taken with him, it would be well over a thousand photos.

Savannah Tours

We visited all of our friends and Walter stopped in to see Ollie B, the maker of his favorite biscuits.  While there Ollie B’s dad, Eric, snapped a quick picture of them together enjoying their biscuits.  Walter always loved these hand-baked organic treats but after he got cancer and was prescribed Lasix, his diet became very strict.  Ollie B biscuits were a godsend because all of the ingredients were approved.  If you have a dog, treat he/she to biscuits from Oliver Bentley’s in Savannah.  (No, I wasn’t paid to say that.  I think they are great for dogs because of the ingredients or lack there of.  You can check them out at www.oliverbentleys.com)
Dog Treats Savannah

During our stay at the Mansion, for whatever reason they allowed some Florida Gator fans to stay there.  One of them made a remark in the hall, “OH, I guess we have some Georgia Bulldog fans staying here.”  I am sure the look on my face was something akin to you are a complete idiot, you are in Savannah, Georgia, home of Uga.  But then again Gator fans aren’t the coldest drinks in the fridge, bless their hearts.  So not to let something as important as taunting a Gator fan pass Walter by, he got a stuffed Gator to chew on and tear up.  The picture below says it all with that look of “I am hiding this Gator under my arm but you need to stop taking pictures of me because I don’t want to be photographed with a stinking swamp dog.”

Florida Sucks

Yep, there you have it, Walter was a snob.  I witnessed him turning his nose up more than once and ignoring people, my mom and my sister can vouch for me on this.  But, he was always proper, a true southern gentleman from Georgia.

As our time came to end in Savannah, he was starting to get a little tired.

Squares Savannah

On our last night there, we ate at 700 Drayton.  Usually we ate at Belford’s because they allow dogs, but we had so many great memories there and I wanted to make a new memory with him.  700 Drayton is located in the Mansion, but doesn’t allow dogs.  I asked the concierge if there was any way they would allow Walter to eat there with me since this was during the off-season and he had never caused any problems at the Mansion.  She called the manager of the restaurant to ask them if it would alright, in true Walter fashion they made an exception to their policy. He received “Special Attention” and was able to enjoy a filet mignon on his last night in Savannah.

After leaving Savannah, we went to our other favorite place is Georgia, Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island

We ventured down the boardwalk to Glory Beach, bypassing the NO DOGS ALLOWED signs, to watch the sun set over the dunes and Cumberland Island in the distance.  I couldn’t have written it any better, we were the only ones there that day and he just sat next to me leaning on me at times.  For it seems, I had leaned on him for so long and could now sense, as I had during the past few weeks, his need to lean on me during his own sunset.

Jekyll Island Georgia

Leaving Georgia we made our way to my dad’s condo in Florida, where it was a bit cooler, but we were still able to enjoy the beach.  We sat there enjoying the gulf for hours, listening to the waves rolling in turbulent and loud.  We watched the snow birds from up north walk up and down the beach.  Sometimes one would stop to ask about him and tell me about their dogs or they would just offer “he looks like a good dog” while passing.  I just shook my head yes, he was always the BEST dog.

Destin Beaches

We left Florida early the next morning and calls started coming in from family asking where we were and letting me know there was an ice storm moving across south Arkansas which meant we were going to have to make a detour.  Up for one last adventure, we decided to head to New Orleans.  I called the Mansion in Savannah and asked them to put me through to Marriott reservations because I was having trouble finding a hotel that accepted pets.  My choices were limited but the guy with Marriott let me know that the Ritz Carlton was available.  Oh right!!! Like I could afford that!  As luck would have it though, I had earned enough Marriott Rewards to get a complimentary night there.  But there was one little catch, the Ritz Carlton only allowed dogs up to 30 pounds and Walter was well over that.  I explained our situation to the guy, who just so happened to have two bulldogs himself.  He asked me to hold for a moment while he called the Ritz.  After holding for a few minutes, he came back on the line to say, “Ms. Turner, the Ritz has made an exception for Walter and it will be just fine for him to stay there.”  Again, he always got “Special Attention”.

Dogs Pets Ritz Carlton

The next day we came home and in the following days I could tell we were near the end.  I knew it that Friday, my Walter had changed.  He wasn’t his usual demanding self and wasn’t eager to go everywhere I went.  On Sunday he rallied back a little and went to the Big Buck Classic.  He rode in his wagon and met a Georgia Bulldog fan who lavished him with tons of attention.  In short, a perfect Walter day.  That night he played with his new toy he had gotten in Savannah and after supper he went and got in his crate to go to sleep.  He had the most trouble breathing at night so I would often stay up to listen in case anything happened.  I don’t think I slept more than two or three hours a night during those six months we knew he had cancer.  As I did most every night, after he went to sleep, I started working on pictures.  At 3:40 Monday morning, I heard a strange gasping noise coming from the bedroom.  Like usual, I ran in there hoping this would be another case of me overreacting.  I pulled him from his crate, where he slept every night right beside me.  I tried to give him CPR but I could tell he was gone.  He struggled to breathe two more times before letting go.  I just held him in my arms telling him it was okay and that I loved him.  I think we sat there like that for five or ten minutes.  I just wanted one last moment with him before everyone else found out.  I woke Lee up and he helped me get Walter to the couch where we wrapped him in a blanket.  It almost looked as if he were just sleeping.

I called my mom to tell her what had happened and by 5:30 she was at my house.  At 8:30 I called Pet Cremation Services in Heber Springs to tell them what had happened and ask if we could bring him there to be cremated.  Yes, I know that the local veterinarians will take care of this for you, but I wanted to be the one to take him.  I hadn’t ever left him, nor had he ever left me, and I wasn’t planning on doing it now.  We had a short service and remembered Walter.  Marianne, the owner, took care of everything for us and helped us pick out an urn for his remains.  Would you believe it is all white marble urn except for two little brown spots on it, just like Walter.

Walter: This Dog Lived

 

Read more about Walter being the inspiration for Special Attention Photography Sessions for elderly and terminally ill pets.

17 comments

Alicia Parsons - September 6, 2013 - 10:05 PM

B-
I just read this and I am sitting in my recliner crying like a baby. This is an absolutely beautiful tribute to Walter. He was a great dog! I know he loved you as much as you loved him.

Alicia

Denise - July 25, 2013 - 2:35 PM

I just read this beautiful, heart-touching story.I am sitting at my desk at work with tears running down my cheeks. I have a Walter myself, and I will give her extra “Special Attention” tonight in memory of Walter.

Dana - June 28, 2013 - 1:00 PM

Walter’s story is so beautiful! We have raised and lived with Bulldogs for many yrs. You are correct, there is nothing like them. They each have they’re own special corks, personalities and love to give! As tears run down my face for your loss, I am blessed to see what an amazing life and family he had. I can only wish every Bulldog would have the same!! RIP Walter <3

Blessings,
Dana

Dirk Stevens - June 28, 2013 - 9:17 AM

This is really a moving story about the friendship between a human being and his/her dog. During reading it, I was grinning with tears in my eyes at the same time.

I wish you all the best for the future. My sympathies.

Nancy VP - March 19, 2013 - 2:34 PM

Walter’s story is heartbreakingly sweet, and your photography captures his journey with the passion that only true love can inspire. I’m staying at the Mansion on Forsyth Park for the 3rd time next week, and I will say a little prayer and smile when I think of Walter strolling the halls and grounds like he owned it. Thank you for sharing your gifts–and Walter–with us.

Samantha - February 22, 2013 - 7:07 PM

had my first day of orientation today and the mansion and they mentioned walter, a special guest that just visited. found his story on their fb page.sobbing reading it now…so much so that my own dog came over to see what was going on. can’t imagine life w/out him. walter story’s is so beautiful. thank you for giving him a great life and sharing his memory

Julie - February 15, 2013 - 5:07 PM

You have been blessed with memories you will hold near and dear to your heart forever. I pray that you feel God’s comfort and peace and know He has something special in store for you, he was a beautiful boy!

Leah Warner - February 15, 2013 - 9:53 AM

Thank you for your story. Walter was one of the special ones and there are “special” ones. I had the honor of caring for one for the last six years of his life. He was a collie named Simon who had free run of our county library, was a teacher in the children’s library and accompanied me to work every day when we had a shop in downtown Hot Springs. He died in 2004 and just the other day I went through all the cards and letters I recieved after his passing. They were from all over the United States from people who had met him at some point. I don’t even know how they knew he had died or where to send cards. Some of the people honestly said that they didn’t really remember me, but that they would never forget Simon.
These special dogs teach kindness, compassion and how to face adversity with dignity and good humor.
Maybe Walter and Simon will pass the time talking of their adventures while they wait for us.

Miss Jennifer @ AVS - February 15, 2013 - 9:40 AM

Beautifully written, beautiful pictures. I can truly say that Walter was my favorite Bulldog. So glad you had a great “last trip” with him and that he enjoyed himself… and that you got to enjoy him. Sending you a big big huge hug. Next time you pat his little urn, blow him a kiss for me, will ya? <3 Jen

Kim Richards - February 15, 2013 - 9:34 AM

My heart goes out to you…this made me smile behind my tears. Thank you for sharing with us. I wish we all could of met this sweet boy….maybe one day.:)

Cynthia Smotherman - February 15, 2013 - 8:15 AM

Brit, my heart goes out to you. Walter loved you perfectly as you too will always carry him in your heart. Cherish your memories with a smile. That’s the way he knew you.

Sharrie Grant - February 13, 2013 - 7:42 PM

Brittney, that is a most loving letter. My bulldog, King Sambo, died from cancer, also. He is buried in Oklahoma City, where we both grew up; me, with him, from 8 to 18, Sam, with me, from 9 mos. to 9 years, 11 mos. He knew all my secrets! That was 47 years ago and I can still hear and feel him. I am so sorry about your loss.

Lori - February 13, 2013 - 6:51 PM

Brittney, I am sitting here bawling. Beautiful tribute for a very special boy.

Melissa Cecil - February 13, 2013 - 6:19 PM

So sorry for your loss. A well written piece Brittney and a perfect tribute to your best friend.

Cathy - February 13, 2013 - 2:59 PM

made me smile…and made me cry…as only love can…

Ed Gill - February 13, 2013 - 10:31 AM

Btittney,
This is absolutely a beautiful story and really well done.
Love,
Grandmom & Pop Pop Gill

[…] an honor it was this week to have Walter and my Special Attention Sessions for terminally ill pets featured on KATV.   I want to give a big […]

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