Writing Non-Fiction posted August 20, 2016


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Saying goodbye

Holding on to Clarence

by GWHARGIS


I'm not an animal lover. I don't like animals, dogs, cats, mice or any other four legged creature on my furniture or in my bed. I don't want to adopt every animal from the pound nor do I have this desire to pet every creature I see. I like animals. I really do.

Having clarified this, I don't believe in doggy heaven or that we will meet up in the afterlife with every pet that has been buried in our backyards.

I have a weakness for beagles. It probably started with Snoopy, but whatever the reason, I get a very warm and fuzzy feeling when I see a beagle.

I've had Buttons, Buckwheat, Picasso, Claire, Clarence and now, Jiggles. Each had a distinct personality. Some I liked more than others. But this story is about Clarence.

The kids and Chuck decided to surprise me for my birthday with him. I remember how excited the kids were for me to come back to the room where they had him under a towel. I pulled off the towel and voila!

Problem was Clarence was a stinking ancient beagle. He had to be ten years old and that's being kind. He didn't move when the towel came off nor did he wag his tail. He just sat there, hunched over with a bored look on his face.

"Is this a joke?" I asked. I knelt down and went to pet him. He gave a half-assed growl but didn't show any teeth so I let my fingers go across his oily coat.

"We named him Clarence," Tracy giggled.

It was fitting. Clarence sounded like an old man name.

"How old is he?" I asked.

"They said he was between three or four," Chuck said, referring to the people at the Curtituck animal shelter. He sat down and Clarence slowly made his way over to my husband.

"They lied, then. This dog is old."

It didn't matter what my objections, I could tell by the smitten look on Chuck's face that Clarence was here to stay.


The next few weeks we did the responsible pet owner things. Visits to the vet, neutering, several baths and trying to teach him some manners while he was in the house.

Clarence didn't really play with the kids much. He would grow tired when we tried to take him for a walk. Usually he was ready to go home for a well deserved rest by the time we got to the bottom of the driveway. He slept 20 to 23 hours out of most days.

I can't ever remember hearing him bark though I'm certain he did.

The vet estimated Clarence to be between 7 and 10 years old. He had been used for hunting and when his usefulness for that had waned, he was dropped off at the shelter.

But Clarence and I coexisted together. He let me pet him and would come lay beside where I was sitting. His tail would thump in a lazy rhythm when he saw one of us. But he was so low key it was laughable.

Two years passed. One night while I was folding laundry downstairs, I heard something come tumbling down the stairs. I ran to see what it was. Clarence lay at the base of the steps. He got up slowly, and started looking around. It was like he was seeing the room for the first time.

"Chuck, come here. There's something wrong with Clarence."

Chuck came running. He leaned down and scratched Clarence behind his ears. "What's wtong, buddy?"

Clarence waddled past, his nose to the ground as he investigated the den.

We watched him for a while, until we convinced ourselves that he was okay other than the topple down the stairs.

Around ten that night, Clarence went out back to do his business. He was walking sideways like a drunk. Chuck had to go get him. He couldn't find his way to the back door.

Within fifteen minutes he had a seizure. It last for several minutes. When it was done, he laid on the cold tile floor exhausted. Then another one hit. All night Clarence endured this.

Chuck wrapped him in a blanket, put him in the car and I chose to take him to the Vet's hospital. I say I chose to because Chuck is too soft hearted. I guess I'm a bit tougher. I don't make decisions with my heart.

They whisked us into an exam room and the vet came in very quickly. Clarence was having another seizure. His body shook, his brown eyes rolled back until the only thing visable was white.

"When did it start?" Dr. Welch asked. He started checking for the dog's heartbeat.

"He fell down the steps last night. It was about an hour after that. He's had them all night."

Dr. Welch nodded and pulled out a syringe. "I'm going to give him a light sedative. If the seizures stop we'll set up a treatment plan."

"What happens if they don't stop?"

"It's probably a brain tumor. At his age ... well, let's not get ahead of ourselves."

We waited. I prayed the dog would just stop, but he didn't. The seizures continued.

"There are two options. Operate and see what's going on or euthanize him."

I looked at the old dog. He needed to rest. We couldn't afford a huge vet bill. If Chuck would have been there Dr. Welch would have been prepping for surgery.

I looked at Dr. Welch. "What would you do?"

"I can't tell you what to chose. He's in bad shape and honestly we may open him up and find there's nothing we can do. If it were my decision, I'd say goodbye."

I nodded.

He opened the door and called to one of his assistants. She came in carrying a stainless steel tray with a white towel draped over it.

"You go on out in the lobby and wait," Dr. Welch said.

I shook my head no. "I don't want him to die alone," I whispered.

"Sometimes they can void themselves, at least put this on your lap." He handed me a thin yellow examination coat.

I picked Clarence up and held him. He was still shaking uncontrollably, eyes still darting back and forth, unfocused.

The assistant pulled another syringe out and tugged the skin of Clarence's neck. The needle slid in effortlessly.

I thought it was going to to be an ugly end. I had envisioned the poor dog writhing in pain but it wasn't ugly. Clarence whined slightly but was able to look into my eyes.

"You're a good boy, Clarence. " I said softly, my fingers gently gliding over his oily fur. "You go to sleep. I love you."

He passed in my arms. I leaned down and kissed his forehead then handed him over to Dr. Welch.

I went out to the lobby, paid my bill and carried the wrapped remains of our old dog home.

Chuck buried him next to Claire. The kids and I went to the beach to collect seashells for his grave while Chuck took care of the dirty work.

A lot of people would have done anything to save their dog. Decisions like euthanization are tough to make. Looking back I know it changed me. There was something very peaceful about the way Clarence passed. It was hard to say goodbye but I'm glad I got to be the last person he saw.


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