Clifford was named Tex when we first saw him at the SPCA. He had a red bandana around his neck — an unnecessary flourish for the most darling guy in the joint. It was love at first sight.
I am not sure what happened to Clifford in the three months of his life before he came to us, but he was a sweet, neurotic thing who was never fully convinced of our love for him unless we were actively petting or touching him (an interpersonal style we called “Nearer My Dog to Thee”). I’d wake up in the middle of the night to find his nose nudged under my hand. He was just checking.
He had major separation anxiety that manifested in a few ways. The first was daring, Houdini-like escapes, in which he would leave his confines and run…home. He’d move rocks with his mouth to escape. Chew boards. Dig under fences. All to run from the backyard to the front. Where he’d wait, panting and wagging, for us to come home and pet him again.
The second manifestation was the compulsive chewing and nesting. Sometimes when stressed, he’d dig and nest in a (very expensively) upholstered chair. I’d go into our closet and find he’d dug and rooted wildly (which is fair punishment for having a closet like a landfill). Clifford was certainly worth more than he ruined, but he did have his own upholstery budget. Thunderstorms were up-all-night affairs.
Maybe it was his desperate craziness that made him so sweet. He was a love machine. He loved me and Jason fiercely, yet he resigned himself to an even lower rung on the totem pole when the kids came (lower than the one he already occupied with Ramona running the show). He adored them. From the beginning of their lives, he could be found asleep in their bedrooms, keeping watch. As his eyesight failed, we’d still hear him clacking on the toys in Milo’s room as he made his nightly guard rounds.
In the beginning, they said he was a lab mix. In the end, they labeled him a border collie (ha!). We know for sure he was part Shar-Pei. Lean, hound body; small pointer head; little, tacked-on ears; close-together, dark eyes; beagle markings: he was a rummage sale of dog characteristics. This muttness was part of his appeal. A Rorschach of a dog. Onto which we projected love (and got back even more).
This Sunday night, during a gathering of old friends (who have known Clifford his whole life), the gate and the back door were open constantly and happily as everyone came and went. And Clifford wandered off — this dog who had never run away from us. We did get him back from Austin Animal Center Monday, but it became clear during the 12 hours he was gone that he was…gone. When we finally recovered him, we knew we had to let him go. So we did today.
Thanks, Clifford for being a sweetheart and a sentry and a goofball. Your love for us was evident every moment. We loved you too. So much.
What Clifford Ate, the Highlights:
- A goose-down throw pillow. Which made a 2-inch layer of snow in the living room.
- The better part of a bag of uncooked quinoa. Which made for unspeakable gas.
- A giant family Bible with a picture of Pope John Paul II.
- The cushion of the green chair.
- So many crayons. Which made for colorful piles in the backyard.
- The bottom one-eighths of three interior doors.
- The cushion of the green chair.
- The bottom of the boards on the fence.
- A six-inch hole in an industrial crate. Which was enough to fit his 50-pound self through.
- A yellow cake fresh from the oven (he burned off part of his nose on the hot pan).
- Very large rocks (not eaten, but moved with his mouth).
- Popcorn (I once found him at home with a bag of it stuck on his head).
- Countless loaves of bread.
What Clifford (Would Have) Said:
- My head is too small for my body. My brain is too small for my head.
- Why stand when you can sit? Why sit when you can lie down? (orig. Eleanor Roosevelt, but Clifford would have said this.)
- Are you gonna eat that?
- Do you love me now? How about now? Wait…now?