Photos by Danny Fulgencio

A few months after Jerica and Jason Collard adopted Walter, they bought him a toy chicken.

Walter lifted his head and shook the toy in his mouth. Then he dropped it onto the floor — all without moving his body. 

The shaggy Goldendoodle was too exhausted for much else.

“He was literally a bag of a bones and a head,” Jerica says. “He was looking for places to die in my backyard.”

Photos of Walter before he was rehabilitated courtesy of the Collards.

Jerica scrolled through her Facebook News Feed at the gym when she saw a photo of Walter that East Dallas nonprofit Doodle Rock Rescue posted. “I saw him and thought, ‘this is literally the cutest dog,’ ” she says. Walter also was the perfect size; Jason swore he wouldn’t be caught dead walking a small dog through the neighborhood. 

She didn’t yet know Walter weighed 33 pounds. He was covered in cigarette burns. He contracted pneumonia, anemia from fleas, heartworm and an ear infection. His previous owners surrendered him, alleging he was aggressive.

Leigh Sendra, founder of Doodle Rock, wasn’t sure if Walter would live. But he needed to be comfortable, so she asked if the Collards would foster him for a weekend.

He struggled to stand but survived the weekend. The weekend turned into a week, and a week into a month. By the six-month mark, Walter’s health had improved dramatically.

“When he started barking at the front door, I was like, ‘you’re a real dog!’ ” Jerica says. 

Now most of Walter’s skittish tendencies have disappeared. He has a grumpy old man’s personality, according to his owners, but is well behaved and affectionate.

A portrait of a goldendoodle, which the Collards won at a raffle,  earned a spot on the mantel next to their wedding photo.

“You don’t have to go to a breeder to have a good dog,” Jerica says.