Saturday

Clancy's Dream


“Does your dog jump in the water?”  Inside my head, I was grinning and I secretly said to myself, “Just watch.”  We had our church group over for a Saturday day of fun and fellowship and thus far it was a wonderful day by the lake with friends.  I tossed a tennis ball into the water and off the diving board he flew having a ball, just like the thousands of times Clancy had done before.  


As kids will be kids, “can he do it again?” they ask, and after a couple of more throws he got out of the water and took two steps, he wavered and fell over.  Elaine was only 3 feet away and immediately went to the ground to help him.  I was on the dock and ran to them from no more than 20 feet away.  As I grabbed him, his body felt like a bag of marbles and was unresponsive, no heartbeat and dilated pupils.  After CPR and every attempt to regain his life, I said the words I never ever wanted to say.  “He’s gone”  “Nooooooooooooooooo” Elaine cried as she bent over to hug her dog, “This can’t be” but it was.  In the blink of an eye, our life as we knew it had forever changed and things on the farm would never be the same. 

I gently gathered his body into my arms, with Elaine and other friends falling in behind me. I carried his lifeless form from the lake to the dog kennel where I placed him carefully down on a quilt Elaine had acquired and spread out on the floor. Very few words were spoken, and I knew what I needed to do.  Saying nothing, I went to the tool shed and grabbed a shovel and pick-axe and went hunting for “his” spot.  

Several years ago, I woke up from a sound sleep and sat straight up in bed and said out loud “Where will we bury them” I had had a dream that one of the dogs had died and I didn’t know where to bury them and then I asked myself, where will we bury any of them, it has to be special!  It was a very distressing dream, and no decision was made until that fateful Saturday when we had to make it.  I walked down that long road no-one ever wants to travel and went to a beautiful place near the front gate, but inside the fence, a place he is familiar with and everyone will pass it several times a day.  Most of our past pets are buried elsewhere, but it is outside our fence that we installed several years ago.  Elaine asked if we would bury him with the others and I immediately said “no he will be inside the fence always with us” and she agreed.  


As I put the shovel to the ground some of the men from our church group walked up and asked if there was anything they could do and I said “there are more shovels in the shed" not lifting my eyes, they got them, and we started.  I said “The only condition is when we are finished, you need to leave” and they agreed and understood why.   In my mind, Clancy’s life was racing before me with every shovel full of dirt I scooped, and I didn’t want to stop because I knew what was coming next and I would never lay my eyes on my Clancy Man again.

With the task completed and handshakes shared with turned down eyes, our friends quickly and quietly left without a word.  I walked to the kennel where he was, and Elaine was laying down with him holding him in the comfort of her arms.  “It’s time,” I said “just a few more minutes” she whispered. I went to the cabinet to get a brush, scissors and nail trimmers to prepare him for his last trip.  We brushed him out and stroked his beautiful face and tied one of my bandannas around his neck.  We looked at each other, then back at him and wordlessly decided he was ready.  I decided two more task needed to be done, so I cut a lock of hair from his white collar and clipped his nails for the final time, placing these items in a plastic bag and zipped it closed.   If we outlive all of our pets, the hair will be divided between Elaine and me and buried with us when we pass on.

I gathered him in the blanket and cradled him in my arms while Elaine and I walked together along with all of our dogs to “his” new forever spot.  It was fitting to carry him once again as we did when we got him 10 years ago.  As a puppy, we carried him to his first home here at the farm, and now I was carrying him to his final home.   Clancy was still wet from his swimming and even had some dirt on his feet.  It’s just like he liked to be and very suitable.  He died proud, doing the things he loved to do.  Slowly I lowered him to his new home, and after he was wrapped completely in his blanket, one last look and kiss was make “Goodbye Clancy Man, We love you.”  Every one of the dogs watched and sniffed him and was allowed to say goodbye to their leader, friend, lover and playmate.  Buried with him was his tennis ball, Frisbee and two broken hearts that will never mend.  “I can’t believe it” was said a thousand times… “It will never be the same…”  Digging his grave, I developed a blister on my hand and would find myself touching it for weeks, just to remember.   Slowly it went away, and I was disappointed because that was the last physical evidence that I had of him.



As I pulled up to our farm gate the next day, I looked for Clancy. He always heard us from the house and would run down our lane to meet us, taking his usual shortcut through the woods and then ride back with us to the house in the car. Painfully, that day, there was no Clancy, and the shortcut that he always took is where his grave is.  Clancy has gone away, and life is not the same, the greatest gift that you can give us is just to speak his name. I need to hear your stories and the tales of days gone past, I need for you to understand these memories must last, this is all we have. We'll never make more memories since he is no longer here, so when you say "Clancy" to me it's music to our soul and I know he’s not gone…

I find solace sitting in the woods at Clancy’s gravesite.  It started with just his grave which led to a soothing place of comfort and a place to reflect.  It now has a bench, two Adirondack Chairs, one small table and his two tombstones that appeared at our house just a few days after his death from people who loved him.   We find ourselves going to see him every day just to sit and I ponder our life and in my mind’s eye wonder what is next.  The dogs will always go and sit with us, acting on their best behavior, some sitting near his grave, most will sniff his grave as if saying hello to him.  It’s beautiful under the tall trees, and when the sun is shining, the open tree canopy allows sunlight to shine on his grave.  Very near are his new wind chimes that tinkle when we have a slight breeze and I would like to think he is talking to me, but I also know that anyone who knew him will hear him speak too, as, for me, I hear him daily.   Rest well my “Clancy Man” We are who we are because of you!  Until we meet again and write our next chapter.  Clancy James was named after me, but he belonged to Elaine and was her heart dog.  

Clancy was a born leader, and he demonstrated it many times.  Every dog followed him, and most humans admired his skills.  The very morning Clancy passed away he crept into my bed, burrowing his nose under my arm, falling asleep.  As I watched him breathe and rubbed his head, he slept peacefully and dreamed… I wonder what he dreamed, did he know?  One hot day many years ago, I was with my Dad working on a project, and out of nowhere he said "I'm ready to go"  I ask if I could take him home and he said "No" but also said, " I'm ready to go to Heaven."  I laughed and 2 hours, he went to Heaven. 


If you knew Clancy, he touched all of us in one way or another.  I have cried more than I did for my parents when they passed, I have felt helpless and in a fog, not knowing what to do.  There are days that are better than others but just when I feel better, something... anything takes me back to that day and the pain.  Living in a dog world and if I have learned anything, I have seen and heard the grief that many people have shared with me about losing their beloved pet.  Even though my pain and heartache are enormous to me, it is no worse or greater than yours when you lost your pet.  We just have something in common, and only we will always be able to understand that horrible pain we share.

"Where will we bury them?" the question that was unanswered for several years now has been answered with a prominent place here at the farm.  It is laid out and arranged with Clancy at the head, and his mates will be buried around him as time dictates. A granite memorial will be placed at the entrance of our gravesite for the new owners that will live here when we are gone that reads;


     “The Dogs of Dogwood Ridge”
Our beloved pets are buried here.  Please honor them and us
by keeping this site sacred.  We would be honored if you chose
to bury your loving pets with ours too.

When that time comes and if you need a place for your pet and want them to be buried under the tall trees, where the sun shines through an open canopy with wind chimes that sing with the breeze, your pet is welcome.  I have several shovels and will lovingly help you as I was helped. Together we can give them a special place to be by the sides of our dogs, and we can sit together in the Adirondack Chairs and talk about the best dogs in the world...


“Mom... Dad..., I’ll be watching and waiting”    Clancy…  

His epitaph will be in two parts, and part two is below.   His memory must last!  Again... Clancy has spoken and will now speak volumes…

Part 2 What's next.

Note... I have put off writing this story because it meant I had to face this reality again.  I did not write this to make you sad but to help me heal and hopefully, you will appreciate what you have with your beloved four-legged friend… I know I do and did… Love Ken


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