Vale Clancy

Our darling old boy died early in the evening of April 6, 2011. He had a good last day with two walks, the second including a lie-down in the sun with lots of pats.
He died naturally – no veterinary intervention – in my arms. He had lived with me for five and a half years and was at least 16 years old.



Clancy had many admirable qualities. He was, when he was younger, simply the friendliest dog in the park. He would go up to every dog he met with his ears up in a friendly hello and his tail wagging. He wasn’t the best judge of character: three times he got bitten by dogs he had approached.
Clancy’s warmth and friendliness won over everyone he met, including those who usually did not care for dogs. Total strangers would come up to Clancy in the park and kiss him. Little boys asked to hug him. But he was also a very determined dog, who knew what he wanted.
Not long after he got bitten for the first time, above his eye, he fell ill. He became immobile. The vet thought it was a brain tumour – a terrible thought because that is what my previous dog had died from – and suggested euthanasia.
Clancy had lived with me then for less than a year, but I was well aware of his terror of cages and his anxiety around vets. I decided if he was going to die, he would die here, at  home. I carried him around the house, and gave him droppers of water. After three days he lifted his head. Encouraged, I gave him a bowl of water. He drank. I rang the vet who suggested I make him chicken consomme. I ran to the butchers. Over the next week he recovered his strength. Then he lost his sight. But that, too, returned after a week. I now think he was suffering from meningitis.
Two years ago another vet diagnosed a pancreatic tumour. I refused to let him have an ultrasound, let alone an operation. I was worried his terror at being alone in a cage at the vet would overwhelm him. I said to the vet, I know the tumour might kill him. Not might, she said, will. Well, I said, he is an old dog, something will have to take him out.
His tumour grew and became big and heavy, but it didn’t stop him walking or eating, or interfere with any of his bodily functions. Perhaps it killed him, but he was a very old dog when he died.  I think it was his determination that kept him alive so long: every day he was determined to go on his walk, to eat his meals, to sleep where he liked sleeping, to stay by my side. I think that having found his home he was determined not to leave it.
On his last day, after his final walk he weakened quite quickly. By teatime I thought his end was near. But he was determined to make his way out to the front garden. I helped him up, then he slipped and commando crawled before I could grab him and help him again.  He died the way he would have wanted to die: at home, no cages, no vets. Just us.
I think he was determined to go that way.

Clancy was my accidental dog. I did not set out looking for him.
When my border terrier, Mindy, died of a brain tumour just before she turned 8, I decided to make something good come of a very distressing situation, and to adopt an 8 year old dog. Mindy was about 110% terrier, which was 60% too much, so I decided to get a terrier cross. After many hours looking through dog websites I decided on Zac, then called Isaac. I went to visit him at the RSPCA. Zac had been a hoarded dog, one of 70 odd. The RSPCA had seized all the dogs and charged his former owner with neglect.
Zac arrived at the RSPCA a very timid and scared little dog who knew little about people. The RSPCA put him on a rehabilitation program and after nine months thought he was ready for adoption. He had come a long way, but he still had a lot of problems. They made sure I had experience with difficult dogs, and knew what I was getting into.
I couldn’t take him home that day – I had to go away the following week for work – but as soon as I got back I picked up my friend Susanne and headed back to the RSPCA. They brought out Zac, then introduced us to Clancy, who was then called Errol, and said: and this is his best friend. I only had eyes for Zac, but Susanne, to her eternal credit, saw immediately Clancy’s wonderful qualities. She kept talking about him on the way home. I was dubious: the RSPCA said he was a cattle dog cross, and after Mindy, who was a scrapper, and her predecessor a male Staffie, Spooky,  who was serious fighter, I never wanted to own an aggressive dog again, and I had seen too many snappy cattle dogs.
Zac tried really hard to fit in. The poor little fellow had never even been for a walk in the park. The first time he stopped still every couple of steps and looked around him. So much to take in!
I work from home, but a person has to go and leave her dog at home sometimes. Zac had never been alone and found it hard. And I kept thinking about Clancy. I looked up the RSPCA website, which said: ‘he was here with his best mate Isaac, but he has since found a new home and Errol is wondering why nobody has taken him home!’ What choice did I have? Susanne and I went back to the RSPCA and brought Clancy home. That was one of the best things I have done.
Zac and Clancy really loved each other. They would play for hours, rolling around the floor. They sat with their paws interlaced and slept next to each other. They did everything together.
Clancy had clearly lived in a house before, and he helped Zac adjust. Zac felt so much safer with Clancy by his side.
But Clancy was a very anxious boy. He barked piteously when the phone rang. I work from home so it rang a lot. I embarked on a campaign to make him feel secure, to provide lots of reassurance, regular routines and clear signals about what was going to happen.
It quickly became evident he was no cattle dog. For a start he had not a single aggressive or snappy bone in his body.
About six weeks after he had been living with me, we walked to the off-leash park. I used to walk the same route there and back, so if something happened they would know their way home. Back then Clancy was a bit of a wanderer, inclined to follow his nose and wander off in a dream. One day he disappeared and I went in search of him. I turned around to see Clancy back where he had last seen us, about 100m away, but we weren’t there. The dear boy panicked. Did he run home, the way I had shown him? No he set off where he had never been before. Zac and I ran after him, calling in vain. Luckily a friend saw what was happening and called out to someone else who caught him. Clancy was a pitiful sight, trembling and terrified. From this I deduced two things: One he definitely was not a cattle dog, and two, this is how he got lost and ended up with the hoarder.
Clancy loved tradies: he would adoringly follow any tradesmen who came to the house.  My theory is he belonged to a tradie whom he really loved and used to travel with. But on one stop Clancy wandered off. When Clancy went back to where he had last seen him, his tradie was gone. This loss overshadowed the rest of his life.
Zac and Clancy had a very happy two years with me. But on a beach holiday just before Christmas in 2007, Zac was bitten by a snake and died. Clancy was grief stricken, so sad and lonely without his mate. The only thing that cheered him up was walking in the park. He was still a friendly boy, but he never again went up to every dog he met with his ears up and tail wagging. I looked and looked for a dog like Zac, but of course none of them were.
I once met a dog that looked just like Clancy. When I asked her person what its breeding was, she said the mother was a German short-haired pointer, and they didn’t know the father. So I became convinced that, rather than a cattle dog cross, Clancy was a pointer cross. What clinched it was his fondness for Lailah, a young GSP. Then, on one of my interminable internet searches for a friend for Clancy, I saw Emmylou. I simply had to have her.
Emmylou adored Clancy from the start. He was less certain – she was a crazy girl when she first came to live with us.  But he accepted her into our lives, as he did old Stig a couple of years later.
Clancy was a very special boy. An unassuming fellow, he had such a loving heart.   I loved the way he used to dance his happy Clancy dance on the front verandah when, after a trip away, we arrived home. Home at last.
People used to say he was a lucky dog to have found me: I always thought I was the lucky one.

Comments are closed.