We gave Wallace away on my birthday. As they say in dog circles, Wallace was “re-homed.” He’s a 7-month-old Jack Russell terrier and just about the cutest dog in the world—a handsome devil—but he was the wrong dog for us at the wrong time in our lives.
Getting Wallace in the first place was an impulsive gesture of love and perhaps the least thought-through thing we’ve ever done. Our dog Penny had passed away on Labor Day, and that loss created a profound emptiness in our home. A new dog, I brilliantly reasoned, would make Maura happy and I wanted that more than anything.
After some discussion (but still not a whole lot of contemplation), we went to Bark N’ Bitches, a West Hollywood rescue boutique where Allie and Ryan, our next-door neighbors, had adopted their dog Django. We played with a few cuties there, but Maura wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on any of them. Then a director friend of hers had the bright idea that we should raise a puppy. It will be this amazing bonding experience, he said. And since he worked on The Americans, one of our favorite shows, we took his words to heart.
Cut to: me Googling Jack Russell terrier puppy and Los Angeles. Maura had mentioned Jack Russells because Penny was a mix of beagle and Jack. Penny was a very special dog—sweet, gentle, quiet and unassuming—and we knew that she was irreplaceable, but the idea of having a puppy that reminded us of her felt like good karma.
A few nights later, right before we went to sleep, I handed Maura my iPad. On the screen was a photo of a six-week-old puppy named Wade and, in that moment, it was game over. Our due diligence was nothing more than stumbling upon a version of the most popular meme on the internet.
We had been discussing names—always a bad idea before you meet the dog, but tons of fun—and I came up with McNulty, the Dominic West character from The Wire. This love bug didn’t look like a McNulty, however. Allie suggested Wallace, another memorable Wire character (played by Michael B. Jordan), and the name stuck.
We picked up Wade/Wallace from a breeder in the desert and brought him home, and he was immediately a handful. Soon I was repeating two jokes to anyone who would listen: 1. If you’re over 60, it should be illegal to get a puppy. 2. The first thing I read the day Wallace came home was: If you’re the type of person who likes to sit on the couch and watch TV, a Jack Russell is definitely NOT for you! If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m over 60 and that type of person.
I couldn’t wait for Rob to meet Wallace, so I schlepped to Long Beach the next day and brought him back to Venice. Rob had recently rescued a big, fat gray cat named Biscuit from a shelter he had volunteered at. He was way more of a cat person, but nonetheless psyched to meet his new bro.
“He’s so little,” Rob said, scooping him up in one hand and placing him on his belly. “Who’s a good boy, Wallace, who’s a good boy?” Suffice it to say, Rob and Wallace became fast friends.
If only I could say the same for myself. Living with a puppy is really like having a baby (who sometimes bites) and that’s where the not-thinking-things-through part kicks in. Maura slept on our couch with Wallace for the first two months and got up every night at 2 A.M. to take him out to pee. He liked to chew on our shoes and also gnawed at our dining room table until I sprayed a bitter-apple-flavored deterrent on its legs (thanks, Skylar!).
It was clear that we needed assistance, so we found a fantastic woman (thanks again, Skylar!) who seemed more like a magician than a trainer. Meghan helped us with the basic commands—sit, stay, down, heel, go to bed—but Wallace demanded all of our attention, all the time.
Raising a puppy is exhausting, especially if you live in an apartment, and even more so if your puppy is a Jack Russell. Maura tried her level best to follow through on what Meghan taught us, and to be honest, I sort of did my second best. I had just left a job after five and a half years and was stressed out about finding whatever was going to come next. Wallace could wait.
Except he couldn’t. He became the center of our universe, taking over our lives.
Not that he was some kind of hell hound (although that’s what Maura called him in a funny Halloween card she drew for one of her classes). Wallace was in fact extremely intelligent. Within a few months, he was fully housebroken and slept through the night. He was exceptionally social, so much so that he became the king of the dog park, happily greeting dogs of all sizes as well as their owners. When I walked him down Abbot-Kinney, strangers’ faces lit up. “There’s that dog from Frasier!” I heard more than once. “What a cutie!” I heard almost every day.
I used to half-joke that no one other than us ever saw the monster hiding inside him. We both work from home and between Wallace’s incessant barking—he’d go berserk whenever he saw a dog on TV—and his constant need to be played with or walked, we couldn’t get anything accomplished. We wound up spending a lot of money on puppy daycare.
Even after a hard day of playing, Wallace was so high-energy that I found myself glancing at the clock all evening, counting down to 10 o’clock, when I’d take him out for one last walk before putting him in his crate to go to sleep. It turned out that I was right after all—Wallace really was a McNulty.
We knew we had made a mistake. We knew Wallace was an exhausting pain in the ass. Yes, we loved him, but not the way we loved Penny. And we knew that something had to give.
For me, everything changed when Rob died. After spending a few weeks in New York for the funeral, we came home to Wallace, who was staying at Allie and Ryan’s apartment. He was his usual, high-strung self, but his barking seemed louder and more frequent. He had entered adolescence, which I can tell you from parenting experience is a difficult time in life. It was just too much for me to handle.
We asked ourselves a simple question—would our life be better without him?—and both reached the same conclusion. The intolerable pain and suffering of losing Rob had crystallized what Maura and I had known for quite some time: We had to get rid of Wallace.
I called Meghan and she came by on Saturday afternoon. I explained where we were at—Wallace was a good dog, just not the right dog for us—and she couldn’t have been more lovely and understanding. She mentioned that her best friend, who had once met Wallace when he had a sleepover at Meghan’s house, might be interested. I told her to let us know.
On Sunday—my birthday—Meghan texted us that her friend would love to take Wallace. She already has two little dogs, two little kids, a big backyard and an even bigger heart.
So Maura packed up his stuff, and when Meghan came by in the afternoon, we put on his leash and collar with the tiny pineapples and walked Wallace to her car.
“You’re going for a fun ride,” Meghan said cheerfully, as she scooted him into the backseat. We both kissed the little white heart marking on the top of his head and said goodbye.
It was the worst birthday ever, but the first quiet night we had in months.
Before I went to sleep, I opened my iPad, Googled Where’s Wallace and watched the famous scene from the penultimate episode of Season 1 of The Wire. It involves D’Angelo and Stringer Bell, but D’Angelo has the scene’s indelible lines:
Where’s Wallace at? … Where’s the boy, String?
Where’s Wallace? That’s all I wanna know.
Where’s Wallace? Where the fuck is Wallace? Huh? Huh? String?
Look at me! Where the fuck is Wallace? HUH!?
Stringer never answers, so I’ll do it for him:
Bodie and Poot killed Wallace in The Wire, Rob died in real life, our dog Wallace is running around with his new buds, Ace and Dot. I don’t know what happened to Rob’s cat, Biscuit.