I rushed home after work to see my best friend. After placing my bag and jacket on the living room chair, I made my way to the bedroom where she lay sleeping in her little fleece bed. I slowly and gently reached out my hand to touch her back to let her know I was home. She opened her eyes, lifted her head as she struggled to arrange her 17 year old body into an upright greeting posture.
My beautiful Clover - almost blind, deaf with severe arthritis in both hind legs and balance challenges was doing well for someone in her hundreds, I told myself.
I carefully lifted my friend into an embrace. The kind of embrace you give a loved one whose time was running out. An embrace to express my gratitude for one more day with my dear, dear little friend, my most loyal companion, my dog.
It seems like yesterday I had brought home this goofy, awkward puppy who stuck to my heels and sat in her water bowl. I never imagined the bond that would grow with this timid, odd, tiny creature.
I didn’t fall in love with Clover right away. She was attached to me like glue where ever I was and where ever I went. Although I attempted to be careful, I inevitably stepped on her due to her constant proximity to my feet. She woke me at all hours of the night, and just didn’t seem to get the hang of things I thought a dog should. For example, she never could climb stairs. After tripping and falling down first, second or third steps, Clover resigned herself to sit on the first step and refused to go further. That is, unless I carried her.
For more than a year I tried teaching her to climb stairs. I gave up. I guess clumsy defined Clover best when it came to jumping or climbing. She could jump up on furniture with 60% success. The remainder of her attempts resulted in an ungraceful thud leaving her looking up at me with a question mark in her eyes. For the rest of her years, I provided all transportation up high and low stairs. I couldn't bear to allow my friend to lose her footing and go toppling down.
I came to accept Clover’s limited eye-paw coordination. I adapted to the glue-like behavior and she stopped sitting in her water bowl. She made up for any shortcomings by looking at me with more love than I felt I deserved. She kept me company through college, deaths, relationship break-ups and much, much more. That little dog did not let me down once in 17 years.
Gentle and True
Clover never warmed-up to other dogs. Quite by accident, however, I discovered she liked rabbits. She met my friend’s bunny and they took to one another right away. Clover cared for the bunny as if he were her own puppy. She licked him, slept near him and watched him as a mother would a toddler. The bunny felt no fear in her presence as she only showed him kindness. From then on, Clover had bunny companions. I adopted five rescue rabbits over the course of her life. Each bunny adored her.
Even more than her kindness to her floppy-eared friends was her loyalty to me. Clover tolerated other people in my life, but never gave her heart to anyone else. Just as she kept a watchful eye on her rabbit companions, she did me. When I dated a man who treated me unkindly, she placed her body between he and I with her back to him each time he came near. She saw him for what he was. I came to realize what she knew all along and sent him on his way.
At 17, each day with my little lady was a gift. Each day was an opportunity to be with a friend I had grown to love with my whole heart. One summer day in her 17th year, Clover was standing next to my bed in the morning with her eyes fluttering while struggling to stay balanced. It appeared I was observing a stroke in progress. Whatever it was left her with a permanent head tilt and difficulty navigating even the shortest of distances.
I debated putting her down then, but I read up on what ended up being diagnosed as Vestibular Disease. People with dogs with this wrote encouraging stories of at least partial recoveries. Clover’s health did improve for a time and she could still go for slow walks and snuggle - that is, until September. It was then she began to intermittently refuse food and was losing weight she couldn't afford to lose.
I knew it was time. I made the appointment with her vet for the next morning. That night, I held my dear friend near. Although she couldn’t hear me, I stroked her soft coat and repeated over and over how much I loved her and thanked her for always being there, for being so kind to me and the bunnies and helping me through the hardest challenges of my life. I kissed the soft fur on top of her head and drifted in and out of sleep until daylight - the day I would say goodbye to the kindest soul I have ever known. My beautiful Clover.