As some of you know, a few weeks ago one of my benevolent dictators passed away rather suddenly. Clarke was not even 3.5 years old and after having a great day at doggie play school and an absolutely normal evening, I found him dead the next morning when I woke up to go to work.
What an awful shock. He was the big goofball of the family, always doing things that would make me scold him: “You’re lucky you’re so damn cute, because otherwise…!” — an utterly empty threat, of course. We don’t know what happened — the vet said that it was likely either a stroke or some sort of heart failure since he was so young — but his legacy and all of his unforgettable stories will live on.
Clarke was the only dog I’ve ever known that absolutely loved going to the vet. He would get excited in the truck on the way there, and once we arrived, he’d pull me in the door, not able to wait patiently like he’d been taught. And once inside? First he would put his paws up on the tall counter so he could say hi to all the ladies. And then after we took a seat to wait for a room, he would sit in front of that counter and sing (I wish I had a recording of it! It was like a cross between a yodel, a whine and howling at the moon), and all the ladies would swoon, calling him handsome and giving him treats. He had them wrapped around his paw, for sure. In his mind, even though the vet oftentimes meant pain (one of those visits ended up with his tail being amputated, even!), it also meant TREATS. And LOTS of them. And what’s there not to like about treats, right? And leaving was almost impossible — he was QUITE SURE that not only were there more treats available, but that he just needed a little more time to work his magic charm and wheedle them out of the people there.
Clarke could have been a stand-in for Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible movies (cue the soundtrack). When it came to getting at food, he was beyond stealthy. One holiday, we were all gathered around the kitchen table after dinner, chit-chatting. Clarke had gotten a healthy amount of leftovers after we had cleared off the table and did dishes, so I didn’t give him much thought, but after awhile realized that I didn’t know where he was. And it was far too quiet, and we all know what that means. My search through the house finally brought me to the dining room where I found Clarke — he was standing on top of the dining room table, the chandelier balanced on his back and moving precariously every time he did. He was hunting down crumbs, of course. He looked at me like, “I’m doing your cleanup work for you. You’re welcome.” and I was sure that I was never getting invited back to my parents’ house ever again. I managed to get him off the table (a graceful jump down that belied all the knee and hip trouble he had) without him ripping chandelier down and then led him back into the kitchen and guiltily confessed to my Mom what my dog had been up to. Clarke? He had no regrets.
Clarke looked like a tough and menacing pitbull, but the kids weren’t fooled. The last weekend that he was alive, we were out walking when a little girl, just a few inches taller than he was, came to me and asked if she could pet him. Knowing that Clarke didn’t always like to be pet on the head, I guided her towards his back and butt and told her that he absolutely loved to be scratched. While she did this, he acrobatically turned and sniffed her up and down, side to side, covering every inch: she must have passed the test because he turned to face her instead of just giving her his butt. The little girl looked at him, grabbed and waggled his cheeks like an Italian grandma and told him, “You’re so handsome!”. Clarke’s response? He licked her from chin to forehead and then tickled her neck.
But Clarke did have some tricks up his sleeve, er, coat. See, Belle was the queen of the house — definitely the alpha. And sometimes she’d take “his” spot on the chair and while he’d whine about it, he wouldn’t ever really challenge her to get it back. Instead, he’d go to the front door and furiously start barking. Belle, never one to turn down an opportunity to scare the life out of someone, would leap from the chair to join in whatever intimidation he had going on. And as quickly as she did that, he’d turn right around, and slink onto the chair with what I would swear was a self-satisfied grin. This happened enough times that I’m quite sure he did it on purpose.
At almost 80 pounds, Clarke was also sure he was a lap dog. One time I went to pick up my roommate from the airport and I brought Clarke with. Since he was always her shadow (he liked me, sure, but my roommate was his favorite), he was ecstatic to see her after she’d been gone for almost a week. She climbed into the front seat and he was kissing her and happy dancing and everything and then — he jumped into the front seat, circled her lap twice and curled up right on top of her. Butt pressed up against the window, head propped up on her chest and as happy as he had been in days.
Clarke, when he wasn’t too busy eating, napping or sunning himself, was always up for playing. At doggie day care his favorite thing to do was to be put in with all the puppies — he would roll over on his back and let them just crawl all over him. But it wasn’t just puppies that he loved. One day, he was standing in front of the sliding glass door to the patio and doing the “play bow” thing that dogs do when there’s another dog they want to play with. I was wondering whose dog was out there, but when I went to go see there wasn’t another dog in sight. But what was there? Three birds. Yes, he was play bowing to the three birds sitting about a foot from the door. He gave me a sad, confused look when they flew away. Clarke wasn’t used to anyone not wanting to play with him.
But mostly, Clarke was just Clarke. The goofball who would do anything for a treat, wouldn’t trust just anyone to rub his tummy, would steal the entire bed from you if you let him (also would sleep ON you if you let him), wanted to sniff you before you pet him, somehow stole my favorite chair from me (it was a bloodless coup, as I like to say), had a hilarious dinner happy dance that he always did when being fed, managed to get up on furniture and tables without anyone hearing a thing, had the biggest heart imaginable and made friends everywhere he went.
He will certainly be missed. There’s a Clarke-sized hole in my heart that will never be filled, no matter how many dogs come after him. He was a rescue in need of a home, and, it turns out, I was a home in need of a rescue.
RIP Clarke … I know you’re in a place where the sun spots never move to somewhere that you can’t get to and where the treats are never-ending.