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I met him at a Borders bookstore. I had been avoiding such “open houses” since an ill-fated Internet match did not work out in the least, but a neighbor urged me to look again, and there he was … in all his fluffy, furry glory.
Clayton was not an easy dog to own at first: stubborn, arrogant and prone to running out the door. I remember his first Christmas at my mom’s, the star of the show, gladly receiving adoration from family members, until my niece got ready to leave, and Clayton dashed out the door. His fur was pitch black, and it was a Christmas miracle that he was not hit in the street that dark night. My niece ran after him in her high heels, and dragged him and his smug smile back to the house. If she hadn’t, he would have run clear to Tijuana.
We got to know one another, became a family, and he learned to love his dog brothers, first Wilber, and then Pete. But when my daughter visited at Christmas, he bit her puppy in the nose. Clayton was not interested or patient with puppy antics.
After several years, Clayton suffered a fatty embolism in his spine, leaving him partially paralyzed. We nursed him back to health, and walking, but his running days were over. He loved us; we loved him. When he boarded at the kennel, he played in the pool all day and kept the staff laughing. On the way home from the kennel last July, he slipped in the car and caught one of his weak legs in an odd position between the seat and the wheel well. Paramedics came to help us get him out. I’m sure they are still laughing about the day they had to save that big dog (we now have doggy seat belts to prevent such accidents).
Clayton died on Saturday. We will miss him forever. I know there’s another dog out there that needs a home, a dog that I will love. First, I need some time to let the ragged edges of the dog-shaped hole in my heart heal over.