Having an old dog is both wonderful and painful at the same time. Wonderful because by that time, you and your dog often can communicate wordlessly. Just a look or a glance can tell you he wants a walk, or a belly rub, or a treat. And that’s a two way street. Standing up can be enough of a signal to let your dog know it’s time for a walk. There’s something very comforting having your dog lying next to your side as you read the Sunday Times, absently scratching his head.
The painful part is you see the aging, the infirmities setting in, the lack of mobility. The walks start getting shorter and shorter. They sleep more than ever. And whether you consciously admit or not, on some level you know the inevitable is approaching.
This week, my wife and I lost our companion of 10 plus years. Clarence was a 150 lb Great Dane, midnight black with a white muzzle and white “stockings.” He was an extraordinarily stunning looking animal. Most walks were usually made longer by people stopping to see him and ask if they could pet him.
Yet, the most beautiful part of Clarence was internal, not external. For anyone who doubts that animals have souls, they have never experienced the love and magical bond with a dog. We had that with Clarence. The most gentle. loving, kind creature ever to grace our lives. Though he was considered a “well-trained” dog, spending most of his life off leash traveling with us wherever we went , we learned more from him than he ever did from us.
I also owe my start as a professional dog trainer to Clarence. People would see this gentle giant of a dog calmly walking by my side and say to me “ I want that for my dog. Can you train him?” For many years, if I was working with a dog that was poorly socialized, I would bring Clarence to the session to help me. He was also great in helping people, especially young children, overcome their fear of dogs. Though this will be hard to believe, he also oversaw and monitored puppies playing at my training center. If one puppy started playing too rough with another, he would step in and break it up. People who were there couldn’t believe it. And yet he did.
Eventually I had to “retire” Clarence, and over time age started to win. He started developing lumps. His walking started getting more and more labored. However, he still lived for times we all spent together, rides in the car, special weekend breakfasts my wife would make for him and his sister, Rosie our English Bulldog. Until the very end, I would pull up after working all day and always see his white muzzle in the doorway, waiting to greet me.
The purest form of love is that of a dog. Unconditional, no strings attached. To experience that is a humbling, beautiful, feeling Thank you Clarence We miss you so much