Clyde (January 2005ish – December 11, 2018)

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.

 

 

 

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A Big Change

In November of 2002, at my parent’s house on Corona Street in Eugene, Oregon, I packed two big U-Haul boxes. One contained my clothes and some bedding, the other contained supplies for my cat, Max. My dad drove Max and me and my boxes to the Portland airport, where I walked through security with her in my arms and tears in my eyes. Vicki picked us up in Norfolk, Virginia later that same night and thus began my life on the east coast.

Fifteen years later, I’m headed home. Back to Eugene, to that same street on which I packed my boxes all those years ago, albeit a different house. This time, I’ll make the journey with my husband, son, our two dogs, two cats, and a truck full of what-remains-after-the-necessary-downsizing.

It’s incredibly bittersweet. We’re going to be much closer to my family (most of them) and much farther from Giehl’s. Isaiah doesn’t remember living anywhere except Philadelphia, and is pretty crushed to be leaving his friends. I’ve assured him that with relative frequency, he’ll be able to accompany me on work trips back east, and FaceTime was made for situations just like this. We’re leaving behind a church community that felt like home from the first day. I’ll miss hiking and running in the Wissahickon with amazingly supportive neighborhood friends, carpooling with Kristyn, book club, being ladies-who-lunch with Beth, and much, much more (not necessarily in that order).

I’m grateful that I’ll be able to keep my job after the move, that I’ll continue to be able to do work that I love and that is much needed. I’m grateful that the friends I’ve been able to tell in person have been supportive and are making plans to visit. I’m excited to see what new connections I’ll make on the west coast, what people I’ll be able to meet and partner with who might have otherwise flown under my east-coast-focused radar. I’m filled with joy and anticipation knowing I’ll be just an hour away from the Oregon coast, the place at which my heart feels totally at rest. And I’m so, so happy that we’ll be able to share day-to-day life with my mother and brother.

But the joy and gratitude and overwhelm is tempered by a palpable, sharp grief, at least for now.

If we are east coast friends, I hope we can stay connected in a meaningful way. I hope we can have a meal together when I’m in town and that you will text me West Wing gifs in the middle of the day just because. And I hope you know you’ll always have a place to stay on Corona Street.

Two Things

1) Today, I pulled a long white hair out of a zit on my chin.
2) Bradley is a mini-Clyde. They are food obsessed, chew on sticks, bark at the tiniest thing, etc. When we toss a tasty morsel of food at Clyde, he snaps it out of the air with precision and speed. When I tossed a sliver of orange at Bradley, it hit her between the eyes, stayed there on the bridge of her snout for a couple of seconds, and then fell to the floor.

Emma (sometime in 2005 we think – October 15, 2013)

IMG_3938Emma.

We knew she was the right dog for our household when she and Clyde met for the first time and she snapped at him when he tried to mount her at the skeevy insurance/dog rescue office where we adopted her. She had been adopted as a puppy and returned to the shelter when she got “too big.” But she was perfect.

Emma  was boisterous and playful. A little instigator, who would drag things off of shelves and counters, only to let Clyde do the eating and take the blame.

She loved toys and she didn’t like to share them. After she and Clyde ripped open their Christmas passages, we would soon hear Clyde whining and inevitably find Emma with a stockpile, either on her bed or in her mouth. I think the most she ever fit in there at once was three giant squeaky toys.Emma on Chair 1 (Jun 25, 2006)

She knew how to make herself comfortable.

She loved to give kisses and sniff our faces. Sometimes she’d follow that with a burp, for good measure.

When she played with Clyde or Bradley and was really into it, she made this high-pitched groaning sound, like she was ululating. It was her expression of joy and it grew to be ours, as well.

She kept a close eye on the trees for birds and squirrels.She was always on high alert for potential yard intruders, and let us know with an insistent bark when something wasn’t right. In true herding dog form, she policed conflicts to ensure that all parties pawed the line, even when the cats tussled upstairs, Emma offered her faithful guidance from one or two floors below.

Emma and Isaiah

When we cried, she licked our tears.

She cuddled, within reason. Eventually she’d just up and leave, heaving herself onto the floor with a sigh. She needed her alone time. But when Bradley laid on top of her for hours on end, or buried in behind her on the couch, Emma was a patient pillow.

Emma was a true lady. Sweet and deeply invested in doing the right thing. She never whined to go out (which we wouldn’t have minded at all) and instead relied on Clyde to whine at us on her behalf when she needed to relieve herself. Even on the table at the vet’s office, before that final injection, she crossed her dainty paws as she tried to relax.IMG_2920

Looking back, we can see that her last few weeks were hard, but we didn’t know she was so sick until that last day, when her face and her labored breathing told us it was time. It was as if she hadn’t meant to intrude on our day, but she needed help that only we could provide.

We will miss you, darling girl. You were an amazing, lovely, sweet, and happy dog. Bradley is doing her best to cheer Clyde up, but you have left a hole in our lives and hearts that will take much time and many tears to fill. We love you, and we will see you again.

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