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Walter's story

Walter was a sweet old dog, probably a Bouv, who I rescued from a shelter. He stayed with me for the rest of his life, which included several health problems.


Walter's story

by Pam Green, © 2010, 2020

(I will tell his story chronologically. What follows is mostly taken from his Petfinder.com listing.)

rescueing Walter

I bailed this nice old boy out of a county shelter on 6/22/2010. He'd been there a month, having entered as a stray, badly matted. The staff really liked him a lot, kept him as office mascot. They said he was very gentle with other dogs, including tiny ones, and seemed to have no interest in cats (caged cats; not tested with free moving cats). He was badly matted at intake, so they shaved him down. They had him listed as Briard mix, which was not a bad guess (but he doesn't have the rear leg double dewclaws that are normal for a Briard). But he is probably a purebred Bouvier. Heartworm negative and put on prevention at the shelter. DHPP and Bortatella at shelter. Microchip at shelter ; no previous chip found on scan.


He road home very peacefully. He likes to look out the window, especially rear one. I was dead tired when we reached home, so put him in my rescue kennel run for first night. He was totally quiet, just found his water and bed and sacked out till dinner time. So here is a dog who seems to be totally free of separation issues.

Walter, happy in my yard

Walter, standing with tail up, in my yard

Next day I took him for a walk with my other dogs. No problems between the dogs. Though I kept the walk short (one mile or so), it really should have been shorter, as he seemed to be having a bit of trouble towards the end. Brought him into the house after the walk. He is a very well behaved house dog. Housebroken and good about taking himself out through the dog door. Gets along well with my other dogs , even my nippy snippy Queensland bitch who snout snaps everyone. He appreciates being petted, but doesn't tend to solicit it. That could change as he comes to know that petting is available for the asking. He's been getting brighter in attitude day by day over this past week.

a series of health issues

His feet had not been shaved at the shelter, so I did that on his second day. This revealed a growth about the size and appearance of an engorged tick on the back of one toe. Bad location, as it would contact ground when walking. I got him into the vet school to be seen by one of my all time favorite oncologists. He took the mass off under a local, and the results should be back before weekend of the 4th -- though with holiday coming up, things could be slower. The odds are at least 85% that it will come back as totally benign.

However the careful exam that was done showed that Walter has a heart murmur, no indications of anything worse than just a murmur. But it might be one reason he isn't into long or fast walks, isn't high activity. His age is the more likely reason. Also got his Rabies vaccination done at the VMTH.

As usual, I'd intended to keep Walter long enough for his personality to come out, to "bloom". And I want to walk him into a better degree of physical fitness, or at least have better idea of what kind of walk suits him. I have taken him on some more short walks in cooler weather, and he seems able to enjoy those. He's also being more interactive with my other dogs.

update 7/11/2010 : Walter's pathology final came back and it is a benign tumor, a fibroadnexal hamartoma. The deep margin was not complete , which means it may come back, but is hopefully very slow growing. This is not going to endanger his life, even if it does come back. At worst if it came back and was causing him discomfort, another minor surgery could remove it again.

Meanwhile Walter has day by day become livlier and more interactive with my other dogs. He's able to enjoy a longer walk, as I have very gradually increased the length of his walks. His appetite is very eager too.

Update 8/23/2010 : A month ago I suddenly saw that Walter was having a problem in one eye. Got him into Opthamology Service at the Vet School the next day. He had an ulcerated scratch that wasn't healing well. So he has been in treatment , but now as of a couple days ago, his eye is almost completely healed and will recover fully.

Walter continues to gain in overall attitude and physical fitness. Now when I start to prepare dogs to go out for a walk, he goes to the door and bounces and barks to be included. A few food treats given during walks does make a difference, but also he has gotten stronger and gotten better joint mobility. He enjoys being petted and is very sweet with dog loving children. He's a sweet and gentle dog in every regard.

he's my dog now

Walter lying on my porch

Update, 9/24/10 : I've added a new photo showing Walter lying on the porch, enjoying the morning. His coat is growing out, showing a bronze under-coat. He now looks very much like a somewhat smaller version of my dog Shady, whom I know to be Bouvier x Golden Retriever. So I have changed his breed designation to Bouvier X Golden. Walter has become more lively, is able to go for a three mile walk with the other dogs, and really does an energetic dinner dance for his supper. Other than that, he is pretty easy going. He remains a very gentle and sweet dog. I still had hopes of an appreciative adopter coming forward, but I was more than willing to let him live out his life here if that is how it turns out. And that was how it would turn out.

update 12/29/2010 : Walter is still with me, still enjoying life in a low keyed way. He usually declines to join the rest of us on walks (see below : I'd guess the undiscovered tumor was causing some pain, though he was not at all lame), but he is always doing a vigourous "dinner dance" when it's time for food. He still enjoys petting. He's still in good health. I may have an adopter for him lined up, an old acquaintance who is herself none too young, thus a good match in activity level :and yes, there is a younger friend who will take over if the dog outlives the adopter. (note : that adoption didn't happen).

"it's always something"

2/02/2011 update : Walter has had some bad luck followed by good luck. About two weeks ago I discovered a tumor hidden under his hair. It was located right under the skin over his stifle . Got him in to my favorite oncologist at the UC Davis VMTH. Fine needle aspirate showed it was a soft tissue sarcoma ; these tend to be locally aggressive and infiltrative, but they are slow to metastasize. Good luck : x-rays showed no metastasess to lungs and needle aspirate showed no mets in nearest lymph node. So we went ahead with surgery under the leadership of the head of soft tissue surgery. Surgery required transposition of a large flap of skin to cover the hole left by tumor removal. So right now he is in process of healing. It's a bit of a rocky road because the flap is so large. More good luck is that it looks like the surgical margins were "clean" , meaning that surgery was successful in removing the entire tumor. That means he is probably completely cured of a tumor that left untreated would eventually have killed him.

At this point, I really don't consider Walter to be very adoptable. His age was against him in the eyes of most adopters anyway. Being a cancer survivor, probably cured but still some risk of further problems, that doesn't help. and of course now I have put a lot of effort into him, which futher endears him to me. I'd still consider a super adopter, but I won't be easy to convince. He's still a very sweet dog and he has become a lot livelier now that the tumor is gone and he is getting some meds for his arthritis.

update 2/16/2011 : about two thirds of the flap didn't survive, probably not enough blood flow into it, but Walter continues to heal. He's still getting frequent bandage changes at the VMTH, but the skin is makeing good progress in "healing by secondary intention" to fill in the areas where the flap did not "take". That will be a slow process, but it's usually successful.

If this sounds to you like it has been a lot of work (and expense), you are absolutely correct. But sometimes rescue cases require that.

Throughout his healing process, I took photos of the area (with a quarter coin next to it to give size measurement) and e-mailed them to his surgeon so she could see progress. I will spare you readers these photos, which were at times rather ugly.

update 4/06/2011 : Walter's skin is almost totally regenerated. One more week should do it. He probably won't grow much hair in this area, but the skin will be functional. He's become a much happier dog since his surgery. He's now back to going on full scale 2 or 3 mile walks with the rest of my pack. (Confirming my guess that it was the tumor which had earlier made him less willing to go for walks.) And he is weaned down off his pain med, probably won't need it as long as he gets daily walks. as stated above, he is a very sweet dog. I'd consider a super adopter for him, but otherwise he will live out the remainder of his life with me. and that remainder is probably going to be longer than I originally assumed


5/04/2011 : not surprisingly, Walter is still with me. He's not so keen on going for walks with the group, perhaps because it's too much of a crowd or because the walk is too long or the pace too fast for his comfort level. But he is still enjoying life. He's a bit intimidated by a couple of my dogs who , unfortunately, push him around at times. I'd love for him to have a gentle home of his own, where he'd have more individual attention. But he's happy enough with me.

5/23/2011 : Walter now is eager to go on walks. And he's decided to sleep in my bedroom instead of on the porch. It's almost like he's become younger. Or like he is stepping up into the void left by the death a week ago of my very elderly Shady. No way of knowing for sure his reasons, but I am glad to see him so happy.

6/01/2011 : I've changed Walter's status to ADOPTED in recognition of the reality that he will be living out his life with me. He's happy here and he has the medical safety net of being only a 15 minute drive from the UC Davis VMTH, "best care anywhere". Last month I found a lump in his armpit area, got him into VMTH next day and learned by fine needle aspirate that it is just a harmless lipoma (benign fatty tumor). What a relief !

Walter stands mid-way up dog stair into the car.

Sweet old Walter illustrates the use of doggie stairs for entering the car

9/07/11 : it's so great and so surprising that this little old man is still alive and in good health. He's still able to enjoy a mile or two of walking. If I intend to go futher, I let him ride in a two child jogger cart for part of the ride so that the exertion is not too much for him.

11/11/11 : Walter is still alive and in good health now nearly a year and a half after I bailed him. That's amazing ! After a few weeks of using the jogger cart, he was back to doing the whole walk on his own four feet. He can walk two to three miles. He still gets very excited over his meals. His quality of life is still very good. It's old dog lifestyle, but dogs don't seem to mind getting old the way people so often do. Dogs just look for the enjoyment in each present moment, day by day, and appreciate what life still offers them.

a nearly fatal emergency

Update 1/26/2012 : Walter came real close to dying this New Year's. He suddenly stopped eating and drinking. The UCD VMTH found that he had a gall bladder problem called mucocoel (spelling ?). We tried medical (drug) treatment first, but a few days later that was failing and the mucocoel was about to rupture, a fatal event. I went to the VMTH intending to say goodbye to him and euthanize him. But I listened to his caretakers there and to the prospective surgeon, all of whom really liked him and wanted him to "have a chance", so I agreed to the surgery. That surgery is not an easy one, but VMTH is the place to be. "Best care anywhere" ! He came through his surgery OK and a few days later he came home again. He's really enjoying his food (special low fat diet) and he's able to join in on walks by riding along in a 2 child jogger cart. Unfortunately during surgery it was discovered that he has a very nasty cancer , hemangiosarcoma, that will inevitably become fatal. But right now he feels good and that might continue for days , weeks, or maybe a couple of months. so we are taking life "one day at a time" . A dog's motto is always "while we live, let us LIVE !"

his quiet peaceful end

Walter passed away peacefully on 2/29/2012. The night before he was especially enthusiastic about getting his dinner, actually trotting in from the yard into the kitchen. The next morning, his appetite was off, but he seemed otherwise OK. He insisted on joining in on the walk, riding in his cart sitting up and looking around with interest. On returning home, he slept for the next several hours, then walked out into the yard , lay down and passed away.

Necropsy showed death due to heart failure due to primary hemangiosarcoma tumor in his heart. He had multiple metastases elsewhere, so even without this particular incident, he would not have lived much longer. He was a truely ancient dog, "older than dirt" , "older than God Herself", and he'd had a nice life during his 18 months with me, including that last month post-surgery. I'm glad that I agreed to doing the surgery.

He had as peaceful a natural death as one can possibly have. He was a sweet and gentle old man. He will be missed by many at the VMTH , especially surgeon Krista Adamovich who said he was one of her very favorite patients. He and I owe much to the VMTH.

I am sad, but I am at peace with this. I'd hoped he'd have another month or two, but at least his last month was a very good one for him.

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created 2010 revised 3/14/2020
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