Photo by Peggy Sturdivant 
Major has been a fixture in Johnny's Ballard Shoe Service for 12 years.

Major’s Last Stand

By Peggy Sturdivant

“He’s everything you could ever want in a dog,” Tony Cunningham said on what would be Major’s last day as shop dog at Johnny’s Ballard Shoe Service on 22nd Avenue NW. Since 2005, Major, the Weimaraner rescue dog has been one of the most photographed dogs in downtown Ballard, a constant presence in the doorway of the shoe repair shop.

Cunningham, Major’s owner, and for 26 years the owner of Johnny’s Shoe Repair learned in December that Major’s cancer had spread significantly. Through a photo tribute and poster in the shop window he has been giving the community time to say goodbye. “I don’t have a list of customers,” he said. “I just want people to know so they’re not shocked. He’s a community dog.”

On what Cunningham determined would be his last day, February 4, 2017, the usual stream of Saturday customers were either dropping off or picking up repairs. At Johnny’s it’s still just cash or check, but any and all form of treats are allowed for Major as part of his farewell. “He likes it here better than anywhere else,” Cunningham said. “He’s just your normal dog, very compassionate, very expressive. Folks who used to be afraid of dogs have gotten over it because of him in here.”

Major was adopted by Cunningham on October 29, 2004. “Our lives have been pretty intertwined,” he said. “He goes everywhere with me, everywhere. There’s places I don’t go because he can’t go with me. He’s static cling. Even when I’d take him to Eastern Washington he wouldn’t want to get more than 40 yards from me.”

Given notice of Major’s farewell through the shop window and on the business’s Yelp page customers have indeed been sharing photos taken over the years, stopping to say goodbye and sending balloons and flowers.

Those who pass by the shop door, with its prime location between Market Street and the Ballard Library, will probably look for years to see if the handsome Weimaraner is on the threshold. However it’s hard to imagine anyone will miss the dog as much as Tony Cunningham. But he knows Major’s time has come. “I’m doing it for him. I want him to go out, in as grand a fashion as he came in.”

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