Clyde came to Giehl and I by way of a co-worker, Elizabeth, whose probably well-meaning neighbor had adopted a big, brindle puppy, not realizing that being bounced from home to home as a young dog had left this particular canine in quite the bad mental state. Elizabeth decided she was better suited to find Clyde (then named “Tyson”) a permanent home, brought him into her already-crowded apartment, and began her search.
We met in the PETA dog park and it was love at first sight. A “trial weekend” turned into thirteen and a half years of incredible companionship.
Since Giehl had already made it known that he wanted to pass his name to a future male child, I decided I could stake my own family heritage on this big, neurotic goof and re-christened Tyson “Clyde,” after my father and paternal grandfather.
Clyde was a hot mess. Six homes in his first six months of life had left him devoid of faith that we would ever return when we left the house. He relieved himself indoors whether we were gone twenty minutes or two hours. He chewed through every piece of wood or upholstered furniture he had access to. The cat-agnostic behavior I observed in Elizabeth’s apartment was soon replaced by a vehement interest, necessitating a dozen years of careful separation of cats and dogs in every home we’ve occupied, a reality that was only changed after we moved to Oregon in 2017.
But oh my God, we loved him so.
Clyde was a big dog, full of enthusiasm for food and squirrels and sticks and adventure. He loved visitors, greeting them with enthusiastic jumps, his enormous paws too often leaving red welts and scratches (we tried to train him, we really did). He could run like the wind, circling the dog park or the backyard with incredible speed, just barely brushing by obstacles. When Giehl put up a five-foot-high temporary fence in the backyard to try to let a few blades of grass grow, Clyde trotted outside, took a look at the fence, took a look at Giehl, and then leaped right over. One summer afternoon, while Giehl and I were at work, Isaiah’s babysitter answered the front door and Clyde took the opportunity to explore the neighborhood. By the time I got home, a youth group who had been painting the house next door had managed to corral Clyde, circling him and using a large zip tie as a makeshift lead to get him back home. When Norfolk winds would cause large tree debris to fall into our backyard, Clyde would enthusiastically pick up a ten-foot-long, four-inch diameter branches and trot them around the backyard, his beloved prize.
One day, we came home to find that Clyde had eaten a box or two of dried pasta. Another day, it was tealight candles that we’d left out on a windowsill, plastic casings, metal wicks, and all. Housesitters who didn’t heed the warning to not leave anything out that they wanted to hang on to lost undergarments, hats, and electronics to Clyde’s giant jaws. Those zooms around the yard sometimes resulted in gashes that never seemed to bother him, but that necessitated many trips to the emergency vet, Dr. Smithwick, who he loved.
Really, Clyde loved all people. He was an enthusiastic fan of humans, even though he’d been treated so poorly by them in the early part of his life. And he was an enthusiastic fan of us, even though we were too often impatient with him. Ten years later and I still regret making too-quick trips home at lunch to let him out, only to get frustrated and angry when he wouldn’t come back in right away so I could go back to work. He just wanted to soak in more of the sights and smells of a world full of possibility. He loved to lay in the sun, from his earliest years to his last days.
When Isaiah came along, Clyde and Emma had to give up their sleeping spot in our room. But they didn’t seem to hold it against him. As big, and to some, scary, as Clyde looked, he was an angel with Isaiah from the moment we brought him home to the moment they said their last goodbye. Perhaps he was especially grateful for all the food baby Isaiah would drop on the floor, for the oatmeal bowls he would leave half-eaten during morning cartoons, for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich leftovers after school.
I have worked mostly from home for the better part of a decade now, and Clyde was my constant companion. When I spent too long at the kitchen table or in my office with my laptop, Clyde would whine until I came and sat with him on the couch. During the last few months of his life, he would pace outside my office door, coming in to lay down only if the (cat) coast was clear, or if I moved Friendly off his bed.
Clyde, you see, always knew where he wanted to be, whether that was on our bed, in the middle of any room, cuddling with one of our other pups, or in the exact spot on an otherwise empty sofa that was already occupied (by human or dog, it did not matter). Many of our photos of Isaiah growing up include the nose- or butt-end of Clyde. He wanted to be in the middle of all the action.
And if you did not notice that Clyde wanted to occupy a particular space, he would stand and stare at you, back up a few paces, and then start to whine. If no satisfactory response was immediately forthcoming, the whines would quickly escalate to short, perturbed barks. “Hey!” “Hey!”
Clyde was a very good communicator. Mostly this communication centered around food. He let us know what he liked (food) and what he didn’t like (not having food…also most lettuces, but sometimes lettuce was okay). He appeared whenever the peanut bar jar came out of the fridge and was incredibly easy to train (except the jumping) because of his high motivation to receive as many treats into his mouth as possible. In his golden years, one of his favorite ways to pass the time was to spend a couple of days hauling around a nearly-empty peanut butter jar, working to get the last morsels out, determined not to waste a drop.
And so when Clyde became a picky eater, when we had to convince him to eat, and when he finally simply could not be bribed even with the tastiest of treats, we knew he was telling us it was time to go. That puppy no one wanted, who’d accompanied us on five moves, through countless bouts of depression, and the first decade of our child’s life…that sweet old man had reached the end of his very well-lived journey.
Clyde, Clidsypoo, Poodle, Clyd-e-ola. I will love you forever. I miss you like mad. I’m sorry for the times I failed to give you the love you deserved. And I’m so grateful for the love you gave to me. I will see you again, you very good dog.
Clyde, accompanying me through labor.