The day his new family brought him home, Wallace — the dog formerly known as Saul — was recognized by four different people in his new neighbourhood.
“Is that Saul?” the strangers asked, excited.
They’d heard about the dog on the radio — how he’d been injured after being hit by a car. How, after being examined at a vet clinic, he was taken to the animal shelter. How a miscommunication between bylaw officers meant he waited for three days, long after the vet-administered painkillers had worn off, to have surgery for collapsed lungs and a torn diaphragm. And how he survived, even though his heart stopped beating during surgery and had to be pumped by hand.
“He’s a bit of a superstar dog,” says Kirsten Madsen, whose family, including partner Jordy Walker and daughter Clementine, adopted him this year. “There’s definitely an outpouring of care for him that I’ve noticed.”
Wallace’s foster mom called to check on him the week he went home. When the family went to the shelter to fill out his formal adoption paperwork, everyone wanted to see him. At the Feed Store, staff asked if the things Madsen was buying were for Saul. When Madsen’s neighbour saw Wallace, she ran inside to bring her daughter out to meet the dog. Then she knit booties for him.
Wallace — named for author David Foster Wallace because, as Madsen puts it, “it just sounded weird to be yelling (Saul) in the woods” — has been living with his new family now for almost a month.
On a cold winter weeknight, he lies curled in his bed in the living room. That’s where he usually sleeps — right between Madsen and Walker’s bedroom, and Clementine’s room. There, he shares the heat of the woodstove with his 40 siblings — an aquarium full of tiny snails. A yellow post-it note on the glass of the tank has Clementine’s handwriting. We love you too, it says.
Despite the responsibility of the snails, Clementine also wanted a puppy this Christmas. At the time, Madsen and Walker had been thinking about a dog.
Their last one, which Madsen had for 13 years, died when Clementine, now six, was a year old.
“I was kind of heartbroken and it took me a really long time to want another dog,” Madsen says. Being open to the idea again was so fresh, they weren’t even looking at dogs, or telling people about the decision.
“We weren’t doing anything to attract a dog to us, except for feeling ready.”
Madsen didn’t hear about Wallace in the news. Instead, she found out about him when she was visiting his foster mom’s Porter Creek business one day. The woman told Madsen about Wallace and showed her a picture. Madsen liked his ears.
When she told Walker there was something about the dog that she liked, Walker said she should meet him. She did, during a follow-up visit with Wallace’s foster mom. It wasn’t planned, but when Madsen suggested her family might like to meet the dog, his foster opened the door to another room in her office. Madsen heard nails clicking on the floor.
“Wallace came running down and he came right over and just looked at me and licked my ear and stared at me and I was like….” Madsen pauses and laughs. “I really loved him.”
When another family passed on him later that day, Madsen’s family met Wallace as a unit.
“He came running over to the three of us and totally broke Jordy’s heart,” says Madsen.
“He came up, licked my face and snuggled right in,” says Walker. “I really liked this dog instantly.”
So they took him home to see what he was like. Because Walker, a musician, works from home, Wallace has someone with him all the time. Walker says he’s a great co-worker. He just hangs out.
They go on a few walks every day. Wallace loves catching, pulling and playing ball. He’s been on a short ski, but nothing too intense yet. He’s still healing and needs the go-ahead from the vet before he can get the kind of exercise he seems to want.
In the meantime, they’re getting to know his personality. At first, Walker says, Wallace was mellow and gentle. As he’s gotten comfortable with them though, he says the dog is showing his playful side.
“(At first) I was like ‘he’s so great. He doesn’t get into anything, he doesn’t jump on the bed, he doesn’t jump on people, he’s friendly. He’s the perfect dog,’” says Madsen. He never farted. He didn’t even shed.
Madsen jokes now that he was just on his best behaviour until they had signed the adoption papers, though she says his sweetness, his gentle side, is still there. They say he fits right in.
“I think now he’s less of a perfect dog but he’s more himself.”
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org