As news of the dog’s death spread, a shrine began to grow on Hogan Street.
Mourners came to the spot independent of one another, tying tokens of remembrance to the gray metal links of a fence.
Someone hung Christmas decorations: loops of red sparkling garland, two red stars, a miniature white stocking and several round ornaments.
Others laid feeding bowls at the base of the fence, filling them with dry dog food, meaty chews and bone-shaped dog biscuits.
Next to the bowls, a mourner placed a bouquet of red roses, now frozen stiff from the chill.
A UPS driver left a sympathy card. “I miss Grizzly just as you all,” it read. “Sorry to see him gone. Love, Deb.”
From Stoneway Electric Supply, the business across the street, Jackie Valenzuela put up a poster. The single sheet of yellow paper bore a centered color snapshot of the dearly departed and a tribute she’d composed that said it all:
“A dog that belonged to no one, but was loved and taken care of by many.”
Seeing this message for the first time, Gary Thayer, one of the humans who knew the dog best, began to cry.
“I can’t help it,” he said softly, wiping his eyes.
It’s a rare thing to see so much emotion poured out for a dog who was not only homeless, but who shunned the touch of human hands.
As Thayer and the others attest, however, this was no ordinary mutt.
Thayer is vice president and general manager of Blacks-Industrial Inc. The heating and air conditioning wholesaler occupies most of the block at 401 N. Helena in Spokane. He said he was at the business on Dec. 15, when someone delivered the bad news. The stray dog his business had named Griz and fed daily for the last 12 years had been spotted lying on Trent.
Thayer got Jim Johnson, Blacks corporate adviser, and hurried to the scene.
They were greeted by a horrible sight. Griz had been killed by some unknown driver who left him where he lay.
The two men loaded the dog’s body into a truck and returned to Blacks.
Thayer stroked the animal’s red and white fur, something Griz never allowed anyone to do in life. Then Thayer hung a handwritten sign on a section of the fence that borders the west side of Blacks.
“Griz is dead. Was run over on Trent. Didn’t suffer.”
That’s how the word got out. The shrine began forming soon afterward.
Practically everybody in the area had a soft spot in their hearts for Griz although not everyone knew the dog by that name. Stoneway workers dubbed him Stoney. He was Yellow Dog to another nearby business.
The name didn’t matter. The dog’s gentle, quiet nature and acute shyness is what won them all over. Employees at four or five firms set out bowls and kept them supplied with food and water.
“He was the best-fed dog in Spokane,” said Thayer.
Johnson figures the dog looked about 3 months old when he suddenly showed up at Blacks one day a dozen years ago.
Several employees wanted to take him home. Griz would have none of it.
He would eat food set out for him, but disappear with a yelp and a blur the moment anyone came too close.
Blacks’ staff eventually accepted Griz on the dog’s terms.
They began buying expensive canned dog food and made sure Griz had an extra supply during cold weather. Johnson and Thayer said they figured out the dog was sleeping under some semi trailers parked in a lot to the west of their business.
But along with all the human help, the dog also had an uncanny ability to survive.
“Surprisingly he was streetwise,” said Johnson.
Not even the dog catchers were a match for him. “They couldn’t get a block near him,” said Thayer.
Yet as skittish as he was, Griz would come running at the sound of his caretakers’ cars. He may have been a dog with no home and at least three names, but he had plenty of fans.
And every one of them would agree that this little slice of industrial Spokane will never quite be the same without him.