I don’t know too many people who haven’t had an extraordinary pet in their lives, one that captures the heart and brings wonderful memories to mind. I am no exception.
When we first met Wylie, he was a stray pup of about five or six months. He had wandered onto property outside of Cochrane, Alberta. Luke, the German Shepherd and Sixpack, the cat had already claimed the territory so the family was searching for a home for the starving pup. We were captivated by this little fellow whose mama was probably a German Shepherd and whose papa was a rolling stone of the coyote variety.
He had a leer on one side of his face that our vet guessed was from a terrible blow with a shovel. The scar from such cruelty had healed by the time we adopted him and the name Wylie stuck.
Wylie was a perfect gentleman right from the start. He was thrilled with his good fortune. He never messed in the house, never barked or growled. However, he nearly ate us out of house and home and it seemed we wouldn’t ever be able to feed him enough to catch up. We thought we had finally got him to the stage where he was nourished but we came home one day after work to discover that he had somehow managed to consume an entire pound of butter that had been left on the counter, followed by half the kapok stuffing of a living room cushion. I figure the kapok expanded in his belly because he vomited it all up and when we arrived, he was trying to hide the evidence by eating it again.
Within a few months, Paul was offered a position in Drumheller, Alberta, running a residential recovery home for substance abusers. We packed up and moved into Grace House, sharing space with the residents. Wylie thought he had died and gone to heaven.
Ten to twelve men who were working their way through some very rough times just loved that dog! He was given walks, dropped treats from the dining table and even hugged by the toughest biker when it was thought no one was watching.
That is, except for the scorching hot evening they were all still up, chatting on the front porch. Suddenly, Wylie came tearing around the corner of the house, bounding up the stairs with that silly grin and trailing the overpowering stench of skunk. To a man, they all magically levitated toward the ceiling, standing on the furniture to avoid touching the beast. He had several tomato juice baths in the following days but Wylie remained persona non grata.
You can quote me, the stuff doesn’t work, never has, never will.
Because Wylie so rarely made a sound, Paul came out to the front porch at suppertime when he heard two sharp barks. One of the residents was coming home and although not drunk, quite clearly smelled of alcohol. There were few rules but those few were carved in stone. The fellow was asked to leave. He probably never got it but Wylie had become Paul’s early warning system and ratted out several more unsuspecting folk.
We never could get Wylie to come when called. One horrible day in July, he waited on the porch, one eye open for the screen door to be left open. He slipped out and was off into traffic, chasing a cat. The fellow who was driving the truck that ran over him took him to the vet and he died there in the office. I cried for three solid days and the house was like a morgue. It’s been a long time but I still miss him and we will always treasure his joy, optimism and sense of adventure.