Clancy's Dream

“Does your dog jump in the water?” the kids said, and 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 Frisbee into the water and off the diving board he jumped 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 body 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-ax 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 had 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 was placed at the entrance of our gravesite for the new owners someday that will live here when we are gone that reads;

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...

As I walked from Clancy’s grave the day after his unexpected death, I said out loud through tears “I didn’t want this to happen,” I remember the exact spot on the driveway when I turned back to look and said again, “I want him to live forever…somehow” as I knew this is impossible, there has got to be a way.  Clancy had National and International lineage and had sired many offspring’s in his life and will live for many many years, but they too shall pass.  There has to be more, and there is…

Clancy with one of our last litters, some are asleep under him.
For nearly four years we have worked with Border Collies in need because they are a special and unique breed.  Most people don’t know what they are getting into, especially if it’s their first dog and no research was done about Border Collies.  I’ve said many times to prospective owners “They demand, literally require lots of attention and lots of activity. If you don’t have the time or energy to devote to the dog, don’t get it.  There are better choices; it will be the best decision or the worst decision of your life and for the life of the dog."

Working in a veterinarian’s office, I saw many times where drastic decisions were made for the pet because the owner of the pet could not pay for the treatment that the dog required to survive.  Hearts were broken, and lives were changed because the owner saw no other option than to put the dog down.  Knowing what I have seen and what Elaine and I have done, it seemed like a perfect fit to reach out and help dogs receive the best care they can get and help even more with BC’s that need rehabilitation and rescue. 

A road trip, nearly to the Canadian Border, was made by a real friend to help a BC in need.  It was to rescue a little 14-month-old female Border Collie who had been shuffled a few times.  Once at the farm, both Elaine and I quickly discovered that she is a true sweetheart.  

Luna just needs a chance
If Beverly had not stepped in to pick her up, chances are Luna would have gone back to another shelter or someone would have taken advantage of a “free to good home” dog possibly to be used for something very evil.  

Where does Clancy come into this picture, you ask?  I talked to Elaine, and we agreed there is more work to be done by our Clancy.  I spoke to our Veterinarian’s office the Monday after his death, and there is a real need for this according to them, more than we know. “Clancy’s Dream” went from an idea to a conversation, to a registered Nonprofit Corporation in just ten days after his death.  A Board of Directors, including a Veterinarian and five other people, have come together to form a much-needed resource for other BC owners to keep my boy’s memory alive.  We have completed and sent all the necessary paperwork in for a 501-c3 Federal tax-exempt status which we have received, and a business bank account has been opened, complete with its own debit card and a professional group is developing a website.   Business cards have been ordered, and we are well on our way to help our first Border Collie in need. 

Our Clancy always took care of us along with all his playmates and the frequent visitors to the farm by keeping an ever vigilant eye on all.  Soon, we will introduce his “Dream” to people in need, and I will tell you there are plenty out there.  There may be challenges ahead for us, but we as a group are ready for whatever may come our way. Hopefully, the time and money will soon be spent for the cause of helping the dogs that can’t speak or heal themselves.  We do this because they have given so much to us, it’s only fair.  The organization, known as “Clancy’s Dream” has an operating statement or code if you will, and it reads as follows;

Bringing Help and Hope to Border Collies and their Owners in Times of Need through Rescue Efforts or Veterinary Care Assistance.

We miss Clancy as do others.  We pine over his death but now know that because of him, many other dogs will be rescued or given the medical attention they need through the donations and support from others. Our beautiful Clancy will live on through the lives he will help to save…

"I was the protector of the pack, but more importantly, I was a mentor for the rescued dogs that were lucky enough to enter our gates at Dogwood Ridge, and now I will lead and watch from far away, my spirit living forever"  Clancy

Clancy’s Grandparents and Great Grandparents
2004 International Supreme Champion
98/96 Scotland National Champion
1994 Irish National Champion
94/91 International Supreme Champion
92/89 International Supreme Champion
1985 Welsh National Champion
1984 England National Sheep Dog Champion
And it continues until 1925

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

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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