My wife Kathy and I held him in our arms at 6:15 last evening and told him how much we loved him as he drifted into an endless sleep. Clinton was fourteen when he left, and today the house where he lived–generously, he allowed us to share it with him–is empty and haunted.
He was, as we told him all the time, the world’s best dog. He enriched our lives beyond the measuring–I doubt we would have a social life in Montreal or Milton were it not for Clinton introducing us around. At a time when Death seems particularly greedy for new victims, this is the one that will be the hardest to come back from. I’ve shed a lot of tears in the last few weeks. There is a flood today.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about Clinton when he turned twelve. The words I wrote then resonate now more than ever…
Everyone comments on his long floppy ears. His big soulful eyes give the impression he is not a happy camper, even though I believe he is happy. Certainly we bend over backwards to please him.
He is the star of our family, the celebrity who gets all the attention whenever he ventures into public view. I long ago stopped referring to Clinton as “our dog.” He is not “our dog;” we are his family. Except that Clinton gets better care and attention than the rest of us. That is the way it should be. After all, he is Clinton, and we’re not.
I’ve been thinking of writing something about Clinton for some time, if only because it’s impossible to say much about my life without mentioning him.
He is a hound dog, but unusual in that he is a French hound, or Porcelaine, a breed employed for hunting in his native France. They are, I usually tell those who ask (and someone always asks), the French equivalent of the English fox hound that you see in those hunting prints people who should know better used to hang on their walls.
Clinton just turned twelve, so his hunting days are over–except when he sees a cat out the window. Then he is once again the chasseur but at a safe distance, employing nothing more threatening than his full-throated howl–impressive, the neighbors who hear him tell me.
My son Joel says Clinton is the most human dog he has ever met. He’s right. The longer we have him, the more human he becomes. Certainly, he is often the only member of the family who will listen to me.
We have had Clinton since he was a puppy, eight weeks old. When he first arrived home, I laid down the law. Two things were absolutely non-negoiatable: Clinton could not sleep on our bed, and Clinton could not go running with me in the morning. That was my time. I was not about to share it with a dog.
Clinton goes running with me every morning. And he slept with us every night until this year when getting up on the bed became too much for him. Charles Schultz was absolutely right. Happiness really is a warm puppy.
He has become more obstinate as he ages. If he does not want to walk in a certain direction, he stops dead in his tracks and refuses to budge. He then indicates the path he would prefer. Iron disciplinarian that I am, I go along with him.
We have gotten older together. He has been the constant in my professional life for practically as long as I can remember, the (mostly) quiet presence each day offering solace as I curse and swear and carry on at the indignities and disappointments of being a writer.
The most amazing thing about Clinton–as it is with most dogs–is that he only knows how to love you, and all he requires is to be loved back. That’s it. A simple unbreakable pact between us.
The thought that someday soon he may not be here, curled up on the sofa next to me, walking me over to the fairgrounds for our morning run, greeting me at the door with a shoe in his mouth–his constant gift for new arrivals–brings tears to my eyes.
So I do not think about that. Oh, I may be in London watching the National Theatre Production of War Horse, and I do not see the endangered horse on stage, I see Clinton, and that starts me blubbering. But mostly I’m able to keep such thoughts at bay.
He’s slower than he used to be, and I worry that his joints will give out, and those spindly hound dog legs won’t support him any longer. Like me, he is closer to the end than the beginning. But he endures.
And he loves. And he is so loved back. Here he comes now, moving out of the bed he has lately co-opted in the guest bedroom, a little stiff until he gets the kinks out of his joints. Time for our afternoon walk.
He will dawdle a bit, as is his wont these days. But that’s okay. I’ll wait for him. I know he would wait for me.