November 20, 2017

The Legend of Clancy Underfoot lives on in the Hearts of his Friends

Clancy Underfoot helping to clear the snow

The statement that ‘The Legend of Clancy Underfoot lives on in the Hearts of his Friends’ is a simple statement of loving truth.

It’s equally a truth which will have an afterlife that carries on into an eternity only those who have shared the deeply abiding and unconditional love of a dog will fully understand, because we all know that God didn’t make a mistake when He reversed the letters of His own name to give a name to Man’s Best Friend. That alone is good enough reason to make a person stop and think about all the wonderful implications.

Those of you who have kept up with my posts since the beginning of them last November will recall my first reference to Clancy Underfoot in a post entitled ‘A Four-footed Miracle of Love’ as part of the story of how our current puppy got her name. If you haven’t read it feel free to dig back into them to November 21, 2011 to find it.

Clancy Underfoot was the last one through our twenty-some consecutive years of having strictly Tahltan Bear dogs as pets. He came into our lives as a yet-unnamed tiny little brown and white fur-ball whose feet were still so close to the floor that he seemed to mostly roll along it instead of walk on it.

He received the first of his names ‘Clancy’ as a kind of tribute to one of my favorite authors, Tom Clancy. But it was while I was trying to prepare supper one evening that he received the second of those monikers because I constantly kept tripping over his little form rolling around between my feet.

I finally turned around to my wife in some exasperation and declared to her that we should change the damn puppy’s name to ‘Underfoot’ instead of Clancy. The moment of uttering those words remained frozen in time and hung for a spell between us as we both looked at each other and then started to grin at the obvious implications.

My wife summed it up succinctly when she said “Oh that’s priceless – let’s keep both of those names. He’s Clancy Underfoot but we’ll just call him by his initials C.U. for short!” And so was born the name of another incredibly loving canine friend who entertained and delighted us for all of his thirteen long years of life before making his final transition to another dimension of being.

True to his breed C.U. lived his life with us outside in the great outdoors, happily content in his spacious kennel with its snug doghouse filled with straw and insulated to at least -80 below on any thermometer’s temperature scale. He’d happily leave it to go for romps with us around the yard or up the hill into the bush. He wasn’t a great traveler in vehicles though, tending to get car sick more often than not, and as such was more than content to stay at home and wave goodbye to us in his own inimitable style whenever we left the yard without him.

The pictures of him that I’ve included in this post were both taken in the last year of his life – the winter one of him riding alertly and happily on the back of an ATV I was using for clearing our yard of snow – and the other a last summer one of him standing snappily to in the portable kennel I’d erected for his night stays outdoors, as well as for occasional day use during a two week stay he had with me up at my mountain cabin.

Clancy Underfoot, 1996 - 2009

He was already mostly deaf and getting sicker in that summer photo, but was fighting hard to maintain himself upright so he could carry on his loving duties to us. He showed me that love and tenacity of spirit in a remarkable way during those two weeks he spent there with me.

One of the Tahltan Bear dog traits as a bush dog is that they will continually move in wide circles with you, constantly returning back to you wherever you are on the trail and then looping out forward and back again endlessly in a watch-keeping maneuver. In C.U.’s case he demonstrated that trait in a unique way with me at the cabin.

Because in his mind I so often stayed in a fixed position inside the cabin C.U. decided that he needed to keep circling the cabin itself, and he performed that circling so persistently and doggedly – if you’ll pardon the four-footed pun – that within two hours of beginning it he had worn a deep and permanent path through the two-foot high grass along the backside of the cabin. Over the remaining days of his stay that path was beaten down to a wide bare earth trail as he continued to faithfully perform his duty of watchfulness over the man he loved so deeply.

A hundred stories could easily be told about him, and in every one of them Clancy Underfoot never once attempted to shirk any of those loving and faithful responsibilities he carried toward us. However it was during the three weeks immediately preceding his death that he was to perform his most notable and last great duties as our faithful watch-keeper and friend .

We were in the process of building the cook shack at our fish camp out in the bush that fall after I came down from the mountain, and sick as he had become Clancy still insisted on spending those last weeks performing his circuits of the camp before periodically and creakily dragging his sorely ailing body to a resting position at our feet. Yet despite the obvious pains and infirmities of his body Clancy had never seemed happier nor showed that happiness to us more poignantly then he did during those final weeks, as though he knew within his own being that the time left for him to pour out his unconditional love upon us was drawing to its final close.

It was on our return home from this trip that it became apparent to us he had finally reached the end of his road, in both endurance and ability to any longer stay upright on legs beginning to refuse their support of his frame. Along with eyes grown dim and bereft of the power to any longer foretell his halting steps, he had also finally lost his sense of hearing completely. The decision to help him meet his end with both dignity and love was a hard one for both of us to take, but absolutely necessary from any kind of humane perspective.

We both accompanied him to the vet’s office but I was the only one of us able to be in the room with him where the final moments of his life would be spent, my wife remaining in the waiting room bathed in her own tears and regrets of their last farewell. I wrapped my arms around him in that room as he lay there on the table and cradled him, supporting his head in my hand as I looked into his eyes and told him of our undying love for him as he slipped quietly and finally away into a better and happier place, free of the earthly reasons which had brought him here.

Somehow having remained dry-eyed until the final moments of his passing, after he was gone I held his still warm body in my arms there on the table and wept at the loss of this dear old friend whose presence in our lives would be so very deeply missed by us both.

Because he had seemed so utterly at home and happy in his last days at our fish camp, my wife suggested that his body be laid to rest among the trees and the bushes of those now-hallowed grounds in the vicinity of the camp. That way his body would be returned to the earth in that location, and his spirit could continue to romp and range the grounds of this last place of great freedom, where he had spent himself in loving service to the masters of his own heart and reason for being.

The snow was already deep there on the day I parked the car on the shoulder and bore Clancy Underfoot in my arms through its pristine depths on his final journey to the area of his last great happiness. I found a large tree some distance off the trail and laid him gently beneath its snow-laden boughs, then knelt to speak a final prayer of love and departure for him as I sprinkled tobacco on his body as a sign of our thanks to the Creator for  the great gift he had been in our lives.

I left him openly at rest in that place of beauty in tribute to his dedication and shining beauty of spirit, and trudged back through the snows with a feeling of loss and heaviness of heart that was to remain with me for many long months – as it also remained with my wife who’s personal pal he had been.

We still think of him and feel his presence circling us with his unconditional love every time we head out to our camp. I suspect we always will, until the day we too have moved from this plane of existence and risen up to meet him again at a bright and beautiful place which has become known to dog lovers everywhere as the ‘Rainbow Bridge in Doggy Heaven’, where all dogs and their friends are reunited once again amid the sounds of joyous barks and shouts of loving greeting.

You will know from these words that The Legend of Clancy Underfoot lives on in the hearts of his friends in a remembrance that has no ending.

Your comments about this post of loving remembrance are welcomed and can be made using the form below.

Comments

  1. What a beautiful and inspiring story, Ken. I recalled so many similar emotional memories about our dog Pippi, who experienced a similar fate in her final years. You might even remember her. It took me years to get over her loss and I’ve not owned a dog since. We talk about getting a dog often, as our boys want one so badly, but for various “logical” reasons I’ve always said no. Space to play is the biggest. Your story reminded me of the one reason, the one that trumps all others, as to why we should.

    David

    • Thanks for your own beautiful and inspiring comment, David. And yes I do remember your dog Pippi so I also understand full well the emotions this story must have evoked in your heart…as I also understand and fully endorse the new inspiration it’s given you to offer your boys and all of you together as a family the incomparable experience of unconditional love offered to us so freely by Man’s Best Friend. As you find and welcome such a friend into your lives it’ll also help to finish the healing of your own heart about the loss of Pippi so many long years ago, just as Hlinukts Seew has done with us now since the passing of her namesake C.U., the Clancy Underfoot of this story.

  2. Katherine Worsley says:

    Ken Reading what you wrote about CU brought back so many memories I to have experience Loss so great as this. The one that comes to mind is My Lady she was a lovely Golden retreiver and as she got older I would come home for lunch so I could let her out and spend time with the old girl well the last lunch I spent with her I had to bring her to the vet that night because the old girl had a massive stroke so to prevent her from suffering we like you helped her go. I thought after that I could never have a dog of my own again then tripp well that beautiful black dog is gone and again I said never again well I think my JJ will be the last he is young and will grow old with me my faithful freind who is always there at the door waiting for me with wagging tail and playful nipps my little AKA mighty mouse

    • Thanks so very much for sharing your own experiences about your loved canine friends of the past here on this post, Katherine. I’ve learned over the years that we cannot and should not exclude our four-footed or other pet friends when it comes to expressing our deep feelings of both joy and loss surrounding their incredibly loving roles in our lives, just as you’ve done here today too. I know your comments will resonate in the hearts of other readers of this post as well.

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