My Clarabelle is gone. My heart is broken and my house is quiet. Gone is that Schnauzer yodel that permeated any barrier and could erupt at the slightest hint that a rule from the other dogs had been breached. I called her my little referee because she kept all the other dogs in line and “told” on them whenever she needed to, throwing yellow flags for penalties and demanding that I stop what I’m doing to punish the offenders immediately. She would burst through the doggy door and into my arms telling me that something that needed my attention was going on in the yard and I better get there quick. I am not surprised at her death or shocked that the fibrosarcoma she fought for four years finally won. During those four years, chemotherapy didn’t phase it, but her spirit held it at bay. She was never sick a day in her life until the cancer hit her lungs. At that time, her body’s only focus was breathing, and life became a burden, and she begged me with her eyes to let her go. I resisted initially throwing more meds at it while she suffered, but I then gave in with a peace that I still carry now.
We acquired her from a dismal situation in East Texas in 2002 as a young adult. She was living loose under a house and totally ignored by a family that said they didn’t own her, but called her “Sugar” and fed her whenever they remembered. My sister watched the situation from next door and would fret over how she would rush out from under the house to greet any family member that happened to walk outside only to be ignored as he or she got into the vehicle and sped away. My sister said it was heartbreaking to watch her go sadly back under the house only to see the scenario repeated when that person would return from the errand and enter the house with her ignored a second time. She was matted to the skin with her rectum blocked with hair, sores all over her body, and orange from the clay and mud under the house. I listened with a heavy heart but unable to do anything directly because I was two hours away. A couple of weeks of hearing about this poor dog, I finally suggested to my sister to just take her to the local shelter where she would at least be out of the heat and possibly adopted, as dismal as their local kill shelter was. As it happened, I lost my standard Poodle, Emery, of which Emery’s Memories is dedicated, in the next few weeks, and I paid an unexpected visit to my sister. Once I saw “Sugar” I knew that something had to be done. I have a little bit different personality than my sister who felt hindered by the fallout that could occur from such direct confrontation of her immediate neighbors. I didn’t fear that issue, so I simply went to the door, knocked, and told the lady that answered that I very recently lost from illness my beloved dog that looked just like the one living under the house and could I have her. She said, “Yes, it’s not our dog, but her name is Sugar.” It was that simple. I’m aware that a Miniature Schnauzer and a Standard Poodle don’t look alike, but they were both white, so it was merely a “white” lie, and, luckily for Sugar-soon-to-be-Clarabelle, it worked.
Under the orange clay and mud and matts was a scared, unsure ball of love. It amazes me now that I know Clarabelle so well, with her intense need to be in control and her need to love, how she survived being discarded under a house with no attention and such little care. It would have been so easy for her to just run away with no fence or enclosure to stop her. It reminded me of how even emotionally battered children will cling to the disfunctional life and family they know because it is better that the void of nothing. It took at least a year for her to come into her own and become our “leader.” All the dogs deferred to her and she meted out a “lecture” to anyone who needed it regardless of size. I’m so thankful we could provide the environment where she could flourish and allow her strong spirit to rebuild because it was this quality of strength and fortitude of character that allowed her to fight against her body and the cancer for so long and so successfully. We miss her guidance and direction and her “voice” the most these days. It is eerily quiet…
Friends of mine would often play a game and tease me with the acknowledgement of how pets and owners begin to resemble each other, like old married couples, after so many years together. In fact, people often choose dogs for the qualities they find most attractive in the breeds that they are drawn to for those reasons, but I have so many dogs of varying temperaments and breeds who come from so many different places that I don’t get to pick that I would be asked to choose the one that most resembled me. The logical answer was Clarabelle. She was vocal to a fault, had a strong sense of right or wrong, held a grudge, had a general annoyance of most of her family members, was exceedingly bossy and easily exasperated, had one rule: Everything is mine, didn’t share well, was a tattletale, felt it was her right and privilege to visit the beauty shop every two weeks whether she needed it or not, loved to eat, gave her opinion freely and often, loved to ask questions, was reformed East Texas white trash, and loved fiercely and with her whole heart, so when I say that a little piece of me died with Clarabelle, it is not an overstatement.
I wish I could take the same moxie that allowed me to walk up to the clueless neighbors who had that beaten down little soul living under a house and take them by the collar and shake it and say “How dare you treat my Clarabelle with such contempt. You had no idea what was living beneath you, you ignorant idiots!” That’s the wounded me, the me fresh with the grief of her recent death, the calm, peaceful me really should go up and knock on the door and hug them long and warmly as I say “Thank you for the opportunity to know myself a little better, for the love a little girl you named Sugar gave me for so long and with such intensity that I am forever changed. Thank you for giving her to me so freely. Thank you for that gift. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”