Messes, Money, Grief, God.
What does this mean for me?
What do I need to get rid of?
Every time I look at Claddagh’s water bowl, the tears reemerge. I threw her bed away. I tossed all her toys in the trash. I put her leashes in a free box. Her is hair everywhere.
I use to be so anal about having hair on my clothes. A real lint roller bandit. The day Claddagh and I found each other, I let that go. I knew that there was no escaping her shed. I didn’t even think twice about it. It’s like a part of myself died, or that my hyper-vigilance had at least taken a new direction.
Who cares about hair on your clothes when you are madly in love?
I’ve known so many wonderful dogs over the course of my life. We had dogs in our family from my earliest memories. Pepper; Muffin, Maggie, Buffy, Sprocket, Lucky, and Elsie were all Family dogs belonging to the direct family that I spent most of my childhood around. Each was so unique, but none of them were really “my dog.”
I dreamed of the day I would finally find my own companion. The desire started about the time I was twenty-five. I had been in a three-year relationship with a man who had a beautiful golden retriever named Kelty Krumb. Kelty reminded me of Falcore from The Never Ending Story. I fell in love with that dog, but I still lint rolled all the time. One of the hardest parts of the breakup was losing the dog in my life.
So I got serious about “Mandie-festing” the perfect dog. I lived in dog towns, and my friends often had dogs. Sometimes I would spend more time hanging out with the dogs of my friends than I did with my friends. This all kicked into high gear around 2006 when I was living in Nederland, CO. A small town up the canyon from Boulder.
“A dog in every Subaru.”
I could buy a bulk brown sack full of dog treats from the grocery store for very cheap, so I was constantly packed with treats for the dogs I would see in town. I got to know dogs by name better than some of their owners. I paid attention to the attributes I loved about each animal. I knew that I would know when and where and who when the time was right.
There were two predominant dogs in my life during this time. Gullivan and Mountain Girl. Gullivan was my friend Tammi’s companion. Gullivan and I created a fast bond and he would always greet me at my car for a treat and some love. We could play rough and he was just amazing.
Mountain Girl belonged to my friend Michigan Mike. I was casually sleeping with his roommate for a few months and was able to spend time getting to know Mike and Mountain Girl. She was the epitome of dedicated and independent. She was a large St. Bernard, and she roamed about the town without being leashed up.
She would walk down to the pub, where Mike was often found, and she would lay outside waiting for him to come to take a smoke break. And if she ever got tired of waiting outside the pub, she would saunter back home for a while to eat and drink.
I really feel like Mountain Girl was Mike’s guardian angel.
It was an emotional hit to the entire community when Mountain Girl passed away. She was this gentle giant ambassador of the community at one time.
I wanted a dog like that.
The ultimate, to be able to sit and stay, unleashed for a period of time and to always know where home is. I can say that Claddagh went above and beyond my expectations in the time that we had together but she had not yet reached that pinnacle.
I had lost my brother on July 25, 2006. I terminated a pregnancy in early 2007 after a one night stand during a blizzard and the condom broke. If I am honest with myself, I was lonely as fuck. I couldn’t find human companionship that was equitable on both sides, meaning “we both want to be together.”
I was always like “Don’t call me your girlfriend.” But then I’d meet someone I would be interested in pursuing and they would just want to fuck. I had had enough, and I wanted someone of my own. Loyalty and trust I could believe in.
I had been house/cat sitting for a friend for three months while she was out of the country, and about two weeks before she came home I knew that it was time to go to the Humane Society. I didn’t know what I was going to do after this gig or where I was going to live, but I knew that by my 27th birthday, I would have a furry friend. It would take two weeks and three trips down the canyon before I’d find her.
I had heard that Boulder had a no-kill shelter with a 100% adoption rate. This seemed worthwhile to me.
A place that I want to check out. On my first attempt, I turned North instead of South and ended up in Longmont. I turned around again and went back up the mountain. I tried again a few days later and made the same mistake. Again I was in Longmont. I am usually great at directions but I kept getting twisted around.
The second time I figure, “why not check it out?”
I find a little mutt puppy who is kind of sickly. We walk around outside and he poops green. I am enamored by his tininess. I say that I am interested in him. I’m full of ideals of raising a little puppy. Longmont requires a 24 hour hold, and a call of confirmation to a landlord that having a pet is allowed.
My friend doesn’t care if I get a dog, as an animal lover herself, and says to pose as her using the landline. They call, I get approved and I can pick up the puppy the next day.
Remember I am house/ cat sitting?
My friend had five cats in a one room cabin. The bed was in a loft, and the cats would hang out there during the day and night, when they weren’t knocking potted plants off the window sills. These cats were missing their Momma and letting me know it.
The morning I woke up to go get the puppy, there was cat shit on my pillow, six inches from my head. I knew immediately that even though my friend would be home soon, there was no way I could have that sickly puppy around all these passive aggressive cats. So, I called and canceled my adoption.
The feeling that I was supposed to have a dog didn’t pass. I needed to be realistic and I needed to try again to get to the Boulder Humane Society. A few days later I tried again, this time I turned the right way and found the place I had been looking for.
I was ushered into the kennel area with an older couple and a younger couple.
The set up was to take the laminated sheet of the dog you were interested in, up to the counter and they would set up a meeting. The people are looking at the sheets on one side of the cage, and I am at the other side of the cages without the paper. Just checking them each out, looking for a familiar face.
The elder couple is standing at the front of “Pasha’s” kennel. They look over the paper, and write down her name. “Pasha” is paying attention to me, so I ask her to sit. And she sits. I ask her to lay down, and she lays down. I ask her if she wants to come to play with me and she talks. She doesn’t bark, she talks. I already know in this moment she is mine.
I grab her paperwork and go stand in the cue for a meeting.
The elderly couple is in front of me. The volunteer asks to see the paperwork they are holding, they give it to her and they tell her that they would also like to see Pasha. The volunteer asks them if they have Pasha’s paperwork. They say “no”, and I sheepishly say, “I have Pasha’s paperwork.”
The volunteer tells the couple that she will set them up with the dog they chose first, and “If Pasha doesn’t go home with this kind lady today, we can set you up with a meeting with her.” My heart is fluttering.
I already felt like I was so close to losing her and I didn’t even know her yet.
I chose to meet her in an outdoor kennel. There were some toys and a baby pool.
Pasha and I were left alone to check each other out.
She didn’t want toys.
She could care less about the water.
She just wanted to be near me.
She listened as I talked to her, she leaned against my legs and talked back.
The elderly couple sat in the kennel next to me, their “first” dog of interest was frantic, jumping and barking.
They looked over longingly at Pasha’s excited but mellow demeanor. She did not jump on me, she did not lick or drool. She just told me ” We found each other.” And so I paid fifty bucks for the greatest love I would ever know up until this point.
I didn’t know what I was going to call her.
Pasha didn’t fit, so for about a week, I called her IMA.
I.M.A.= Incredibly Magical Animal.
We slept together with all the cats in the top loft. I would heft her up the crazy ladder that slipped out from underneath me more than once and our life together began.
I finally settled on the name Claddagh Moondancer Wonderdog.
Claddagh because of the Irish wedding band, the hands holding a heart with a crown, signifying “Love, Loyalty, and Friendship.” She was my partner, and I would honor her as such through her name.
Moondancer came along when the snow fell, and Claddagh would lie about needing to go outside to go potty. She would just want to slide upside down like a penguin on snow drifts. She would prance through the thick blanket of white, like a deer. Under a full moon, it looked like she was dancing on the moon itself.
Wonderdog is pretty self-explanatory.
My friend came home to her cabin full of cats and Claddagh and I camped out until the snow fell and we moved in with friends who needed some child care and help to start a small business.
Claddagh came with me to work every single day,
whether I was working at the New Moon cafe in Nederland, or working for my friends in Gilpin. Every single day, my dog accompanied me, and I swore I would never work another job that would keep me from her for long periods of time. I was blessed to have it work out so perfectly over the years.
I understand people get pets that they only see a little bit throughout the day or night… but I seriously got a companion. She was more than “emotional support animal.”
I didn’t have a doctors note or anything.
I just lived in an incredibly dog-friendly town, and Claddagh was the most loveable dog you could meet. She treated everyone like they were there to specifically see her.
She would give her full attention and love. She would talk to anyone who came into her sphere.
Only once, during our time together, did she sense that a person was “off”, and backed away as if disgusted. It was like she hit an energy bubble, and she backed away as if to say “this isn’t a sphere I want to be in.” The woman was homeless and talking to herself, she looked rather disturbed.
All the regulars at New Moon knew Claddagh.
They loved her.
On my days off, I would grab a coffee and paint on the patio with Claddagh right beside me. Once a week we would go on a date and get a burger and french fries and share it on the patio of First Street, and later Squirrels in Corvallis, Oregon. Any place that served beer, burgers, and fries and had a dog-friendly patio, was my kind of spot. I met a lot of people because of Claddagh.
There is so much more to her story.
I am going to cut this chapter off here.
There is so much to process. My eyes are wet and dry at the same time. I want to honor her. If you are reading this, thank you for taking the time to get to know my best friend. I look forward to sharing more about her as I am able to sit and write it all down.