TRIBUTE: CLARENCE, THE SINGING DOG
TRIBUTE TO MY BOY, CLARENCE
In The Prophet, when speaking “On Love,” Kahlil Gibran said basically, that without love, “…you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.” I’m so madly in love with Clarence that this past week I cried more than all of my tears; I truly have cried from so deep inside my being that I can’t believe any of me is left. But, as much pain as I’m in, without my precious boy, I have also laughed all of my laughter, for which I’m more than grateful.
Mr. X and I could not have asked for anything more out for our choice of the one being to share our lives. Clarence was the best dog I’ve ever seen or heard of. Not only was he the sweetest, most loving and caring and affectionate pal ever, but he literally didn’t give us even one second to be angry at him for in the almost eighteen years that we were blessed to have him with us.
As much as I never wish sadness on any other person, there’s comfort in knowing that the pain is not ours alone–Clarence had so many fans and friends. Even people with their own pets always told me how special they thought Clarence was. I’m so happy that so many people got to experience his exquisite sweetness.
We got Clarence by accident. Mr. X was going to a breeder to get a dog for his parents and I tagged along to make sure that he didn’t come home with one for us. I felt that we were always too busy for such a major responsibility at that time. Then Clarence came out with his brother and my heart stopped–he was just the most adorable thing ever. (And no–it’s not because he was a tiny white toy poodle–that’s all the breeder had! It’s because he was already funny while being so innocent. He was such a showman. I always say he came out like Jackie Wilson, the old R&B singer who was known as “Mr. Excitement.” Clarence was practically doing splits like Jackie!)
So, after all my resolve, I kept telling Mr. X that we just had to have him. He was really in a rush to buy Clar’s bro and get home, and said that we can think it over and come back for him some other time. I was holding Clarence on my lap, sort-of sitting up in my arms, and I looked at him and said, “Clarence, if you want to come with us, you have to tell me right now.” (That’s correct–I knew his name before we even got him!) He looked up at me, paused for just one second, then reached up and kissed me on the lips! And that was it. (And he continued to shower me with kisses his entire life, up until the very end. I’m so grateful for every single one of them.)
He started appearing on my show immediately, to rave reviews. But when he started his singing career, he became a real star. Audience members have even sworn that they’ve heard him say the words “Happy Birthday,” when singing that tune on the show. And I don’t even doubt it.
One time, when he and I were staying with friends in New York, a talent coordinator from L.A. called there, asking for me. She queried, “Where are you?” When I answered, “New York,” she paused then asked, “And where’s Clarence?” A tad amused, I said, “Here with me,” to which she asked, “Will he be back by” such-and-such date? Notice, she didn’t care if I’d be back, just Clarence. Turns out, they wanted to book him for a show! To sing! I hated to point out that they he probably wouldn’t sing without me, and she said, “Oh, you’ll be on the show with him!” But notice–she didn’t ask if I was available on that date, just Clarence! That boy was a star!
Another time, when I was visiting my parents, I brought one of my shows on tape for them to see. I knew my mother would be interested, but my father was not my biggest fan. So, I was shocked when he voluntarily moved over to the couch to watch, too. I paced nervously in the adjoining room, surprised that he was watching the entire half hour. He was hanging in the whole time. With five minutes left, he leaned over to my mother and said, “I thought the dog was on the show.” For some reason, Clarence didn’t sing on that particular episode until the end, but my father so wanted to see him that he hung in there the whole show, listening to my frivolity, waiting it out for Clarence to appear! I have a feeling that many viewers did the same thing!
I’m sorry this is so long, but, thankfully, so was his life, so I have many stories to tell. Just one more, that I really love. I’m so grateful that Clarence was healthy enough to travel to New York for Thanksgiving 2008 with us. As many friends as I have on the east coast, and as much fun as I have, the most special times were when Mr. X, Clarence, my mother, and I were all together in the house there. Incredibly cozy.
But one day, I couldn’t find him. I scoured the house and was beginning to panic, screaming “Clarence” with more fervor than Brando yelled, “Stella!!!” Mr. X and my mom were crazy, too. Finally, my mother started laughing and said, “I found him.” We ran to the living room, but couldn’t see him anywhere, and thought, for a brief second, that perhaps my mother had gone a tad nutty. Then we followed her eyes to one of the couches. It’s the one with all of her dolls and stuffed animals that she collects. (Okay, so maybe she already is a bit eccentric.) There among them was Clarence! We had totally missed him because he so blended in with the inanimate pals. He was his most adorable. He looked up at us, like, “What’s the fuss?,” and we just left him there. But we remembered to look there first from then on.
Clarence was truly the best friend I’ve ever had in my whole life. No one in the world, including Mr. X and my little mother, has ever been so in love with me. This whole year, he wouldn’t even go to bed without me! I always tried to put him to bed with Mr. X and then go write. Within a minute, he was up and at ’em, sitting next to me, whining for my attention. We did this about ten times a night. Finally, I realized that I had to make believe I was going to sleep with him, and then sneak out when he was asleep, like you do with a child. More times than not, I actually did fall asleep, proving that my boy was just looking out for my health–he knew that I’d been running on fumes and needed to go to sleep. What other friend does that???
This year began with my serious back issue, which made me stay in the house for 90% of the time in February, March, and April. I’m so grateful now that it happened, disturbing and painful as the ordeal was, because it gave me every second of that time to spend with Clarence. I’d go through it all over again in a heartbeat just for those precious moments.
When he got sick three and a half weeks ago, I begged him to stay with us. All of his doctors said it would be the end immediately. When I called the hospital doc, who had just met him, a week later to ask a question, she said she was shocked he was still with us and that he’s an amazingly strong boy. He did seem to confound the medical world, almost right from the beginning. He had health issues even then, and a couple of difficult illnesses over the years.
But Clarence’s will was very strong, and he knew that I needed some more time with him. I so appreciate his kindness to give me those extra few weeks to spend together. And he kissed me like crazy, seeming to want to make them last a lifetime for me. He didn’t leave until I said to please go, which even Mr. X and I were shocked that I finally did. But he hadn’t suffered at all, and I wanted to make sure that he didn’t. He kissed me earlier, asked for his dog “chocolate,” and then he left, with us kissing him the whole time.
I will miss my beloved boy for the rest of my life. But, as he was two months shy of his eighteenth birthday, I’m telling myself that he just went off to college. And since he’s the smartest boy ever, I’m sure he’ll continue on for his Masters and Ph.D. So, he won’t have tons of time to come home often, anyway.
Though I’m sure we’ll think of him just about every second of our lives, there’s one extra special time that we’ll also have. Named after our favorite angel, Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life, we’ll be reminded of him each Christmas when we see Jimmy Stewart look skyward at the end of the film, wink, and say, “Atta boy, Clarence.” …Atta boy, indeed.