It is a gift for us at Pasadena Humane when adopters follow up to let us know the power of the bond with their pets. In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to share one of those gifts with you.
Bright-eyed Walter originally came to Pasadena Humane in late 2015 as part of a litter of young puppies. He was a happy-go-lucky pup who rough and tumbled with his litter mates.
Walter stood out from the bunch with his white fur and blue eyes. As he grew older, our medical team noticed that he was unique in another way: Walter couldn’t hear.
We wanted to find Walter a home that was ready to care for a dog who was deaf. We posted his adorable picture and a brief write-up on Facebook. Almost immediately we had a response from a family interested in adopting him.
Chrissy Vasquez was drawn to the puppy because her daughter, Julia, who was then 10 years old, was also born deaf. Chrissy thought the two would share a close bond.
When Chrissy met Walter, she knew he was meant to be theirs. “When I first held Julia, since she couldn’t really hear my voice, she would smell my neck. And, when I first held Walter, he did almost the same exact thing,” Chrissy explains. Right away it struck her: “They’re the same!”
Once Walter joined their home, the bond between daughter and doggy was undeniable. Walter rarely left Julia’s side. He did homework with her every school day and the pair played for hours in the yard on the weekends. Julia began to teach Walter basic commands in sign language — like sit, food and water.
Julia and Walter’s special connection was captured in a video featured on “Today,” “Good Morning America,” Huffington Post and People Magazine, among thousands of other news outlets worldwide. In an especially moving moment, a young Julia shared her love for Walter, calling him her “best friend.”
For the past six years, we’ve stayed in touch with Walter’s family and receive regular updates on the pair. Walter and Julia’s bond has continued to grow even stronger over time.
Two years ago, Julia was unexpectedly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Walter was by her side through it all. “It was almost like he knew she needed him more than ever,” Chrissy shares.
Then, to everyone’s surprise, Julia and Walter found one more common bond, as he, too, was diagnosed with diabetes early in 2021. Julia and Walter are both doing great on their insulin-based treatments. For Chrissy, their shared path to recovery just proves they really are the true soulmates she always knew them to be.
Walter still accompanies Julia, now 16, to high school most mornings and sits by her side as she does her homework in the afternoons. Walter loves chasing soccer balls with Julia on the weekends, and at Christmas, the family has a tradition of driving around town to look at the lights. Chrissy says she is “pretty sure it’s one of his favorite days of the year!”
For those of us who are fortunate to have adopted a shelter pet, we know they give us at least as much comfort and joy as we give them. The human/animal bond adds brightness to our lives, and for some people and their pets, the benefits are truly a miracle.
Wishing you a holiday full of joy and the unconditional love of “best friends,” be they dogs, cats or any other critter who warms your heart.
Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.