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Clawd Alone
                     by Erik Ipsen

We shoulda done somethin’ about Clawd. No excuse, but I didn’t even know his name ‘til the end.

But there’s also a lot about Clawd we did find out over those years. Some said his life wasn’t much, but that’s what made it stand out, ’specially in the winter. Maine gets cold, and with the snow, and the damn days gettin’ so short. Well, it’s no time to get stuck outside all day like Clawd was.

That’s why, after a few winters all the neighbors started talking about savin’ ‘im. Sure, he could sit in his dog house all January, but being a beagle, he got antsy a lot. And with his leash hooked up to the clothes line that ran back 50 feet or so to the fence, he had places to go and boy did he. Somedays I’d see him come out maybe once or twice every hour, usually with his head high, and lotsa times kinda bouncy like. And then when he finished his business and went back into his house, you could always tell he was makin’ himself comfortable again. You couldn’t see the dog, but you could see the leash up on the clothes line get tugged closer and closer. I figured that was Clawd circlin’ around and around in there organizin’ his bed to get it just right, whatever that mighta been.

So, it wasn’t all bad for Clawd, especially in summer when everybody’d smile seeing him reclinin’ in the sun by the fence on the bed he’d drag out there most mornings.

But even on the good days, he looked lonely. That was Tullio’s doing, a mean indivijhul if ever there was one and the worst damn plumber in all Bangor. Put in new half-inch copper pipe down in my basement a couple of years back, and lookin’ at how sloppy he soldered mosta the joints, you could see the man’d been drinkin’ again.

That’s kinda how Tullio was with Clawd, that he got as a huntin’ dog, if you can believe that. What for? Blastin’ away at mallards from the window of his big Lincoln? At first, I felt bad Tullio had no time for Clawd, but then I seen it went both ways, with that dog showin’ no int’rest in his owner. That’s when it hit me that Clawd was prob’ly better off with nobody most days than he’d a been with Tullio.

With Tullio’s son Art, a high school shop teacher who lived out by the mill, Clawd showed much more intrest. When Art’d pull up on the street out front in his old Jeep 4X4, Clawd’d come right outta his house with his tail waggin’ a good minute before Art came ‘round the house to say hello and rub his head with both hands. But Art had bad Lou Gehrig’s disease and came less and less until he passed away last month at 34, my son Doug’s age.

We found out Clawd’s name at the funeral from Tullio’s wife Hildy, a nice old gal who I hardly ever saw leave that house of theirs. Anyway, she told us that namin’ the dog Clawd’d been Art’s idea, spellin’ wise. That figgers ‘cause one thing everbody always said about Art was that even with all his problems -- his dad and his disease and all – he had a real good sense a humor.

Hildy told us they’d found Clawd dead in his little house the same day Art passed.

It was winter.