The Black Brick House

By Alyssa Hurst | Photography By Ben Ward

On an unassuming street in an older neighborhood in Denver, couched between two typically cute suburban homes, is an all-black house with a spiky iron fence. Its spooky-stylish exterior would certainly catch your eyes if they weren’t already trained on the squawking turkey that prowls the front yard.

His name is Cranberry, and he’s new around here. His rainbow iridescent neck flops unnaturally against his back due to a health condition, and he’s blind in one eye, thanks to a squabble in a past life. He’s coping with his unfamiliar surroundings by continuously announcing his presence – loudly.

The funny turkey serenading the mailman and passing children from a dog bed on the front porch is the first clue that this home is something special. It’s the residence of Steve Greig, a Denver-based accountant who shares the address with Cranberry, a monogamous duck couple, a mother- daughter calico cat duo, two rabbits, multiple chickens, a pot-bellied pig named Bikini who sleeps in a pink princess bed, and his beloved pack of 10 senior dogs.

This misfit menagerie has earned the devotion of millions online, not so much for the oddity of it all, but rather the heart behind it. Most of the animals who bring color to the stark black home have been discarded; too old to keep breeding, too sick to keep feeding, or too broken to keep loving. But in Greig, they’ve found new life.

As you make your way past Cranberry and Raylene, Greig’s seven-year-old Irish Wolfhound who serves as the home’s unofficial greeter, the home’s interior — in sharp contrast to the chilly black-brick exterior —feels cozy and full of life, an homage to its inhabitants. The walls are brimming with paintings and drawing of canines past and present, including the dog who started it all: Wolfgang.

Long before Greig became known for taking in senior dogs and giving them a safe place to land, his primary role was as Wolfgang’s companion. Greig got Wolfgang as a puppy and spent more than 12 years by his side. “We just bonded. I did everything with that dog. I always tell people it’s kind of like when you know someone so well and you’re in on the same joke or something,” he says. “It’s like you could just look at each other and know what the other was thinking.” When Wolfgang was killed by a car in 2013, Greig felt broken. He couldn’t see the meaning in it and spent months grieving. “Two or three months later, finally, I was like, I must do something so I can be a functioning member of society again. I decided that I would go to the pound and adopt the oldest dog they had,” he remembers. “This dog would get to live because Wolfgang had died.”

That dog came to be known as Eeyore. At 14 years old, the Chihuahua had four bad knees and a heart murmur, but in just the ride home from the shelter, he had already made a life-altering impact on Greig: “He was immediately healing. I could just feel that something had happened that was supposed to.”

From there, Greig heard about another senior dog in need and another, and just like that, he had opened his home to a steady roster of nine, sometimes 10, souls. He began to form relationships with senior dog shelters across the country and developed a reputation for his squishy heart. As his dog count grew, so did his social media following. People were drawn to the missing teeth and eyes, the patchy fur, the silly outfits, the special relationships, and the personalities captured so easily on camera.

Greig wanted his followers to see dogs like Willamena — a maybe- Maltese who makes up for her missing eye and disintegrated bottom jaw with a pink hair bow and denim vest — as more than just a “like” or “share.” Willamena, 16, spent three years in a shelter receiving no interest from potential adopters until Greig made her part of the pack. Why, when she is so valued and adored online, was no one willing to love and appreciate her in real life?

Dogs like Willamena are the reason Greig has turned his attention toward advocacy. He partners with Denver-based MaxFund Animal Adoption Center to share adoptable seniors with his Instagram (@Wolfgang2242) community of one million and has helped find a home or foster parent for every dog whose story he’s amplified except one: an incontinent gal named Kitty, who has since passed away.

“I get so many messages that are like, ‘My next dog is definitely going to be a senior.’ I think it’s just showing people how easy they are, how much life they still have left in them, how grateful they are, and how much they bring to your life,” Greig says. “As you get older, you become the best version of yourself. I think it’s kind of true with dogs as well. They really settle into who they are.”

The truth is, caring for a merry band of mutts, cats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, a pig, and a turkey comes with a hefty morning routine and a laundry list of ailments that require medications and special care. But that’s what you sign up for with any pet, Greig says; the good always outweighs the work. He gets to sleep deep in a sea of dogs; all but Raylene, who is too big, and Melvin, an 18-year-old blind dachshund who is afraid of heights, sleep in his bed. Greig runs two air purifiers and a fan to drown out their breathing, wheezing, and snoring through the night, and in the morning, he carries the six who can’t make it down the stairs on their own two by two.

He gets to load 10 dogs into his 1977 Bronco every Saturday morning for a group burrito run and watch them all catch the wind in the wisps of hair they have left, their noses perking up at the tasty smells. He gets to be loved by dogs like Raylene, who nudges her giant head under his hand while pressing her 100-plus pounds into his legs, desperate for attention after spending the better part of her life in a cage. He gets to spoil countless little dogs, who blend into fluffy rugs and nestle in beds disguised as décor, beds built into kitchen nooks, beds in every corner. He gets to watch true love blossom between species and between dogs like Fernando, a tiny Yorkshire terrier in a diaper, and Hedwig, an even tinier Chihuahua who has fully captured every last drop of her lover’s affection. And while this life comes with loss, often too soon, Greig states surely that it’s well worth the pain. “It’s just heartbreaking, but there’s no way I would cheat myself out of that experience,” he says. “You know, even if it was just two years, why, why would you cheat yourself out of more love?”



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