Seems like a couple of years ago I wrote a CBA Welcome Column about Claude The “Singing” Dog. Claude is a Jack Russell Terrier who lives near Cave Junction, Oregon. I have a singing, guitar playing buddy who adopted Claude.
Claude was nameless some years ago when he slowly wandered up the drive way to the five acres of tall pine trees where my friend, Dale Hopper, lives. “Claude was skin and bones when I first saw him,” Dale told me back then. Dale put notices in the local paper, no one responded, so Claude was adopted. I related that Dale’s last name is Hopper, so naturally he named the dog Claude (Claude Hopper).
After Claude was restored back to health, and during one of my visits way back then, Dale and I were in the back house playing some bluegrass music, with Claude present. During one of the songs, Cattle Call, he suddenly put his head back, nose high in the air, and started to howl along with the song. Dale and I labeled the howl as “singing,” because the sound was right on, not going flat or sharp, key of D, I think it was. The rest is, as they say, history.
From that time back then Claude went from back porch singing to performing in front of audiences, with his own stool, microphone, and colorful red bandanna, intermittently making it into various newspapers, and playing benefits for animal shelters. He also went from a one song repertoire to a dozen songs (Cattle Call still remains his favorite). He is accompanied, of course, by his owner and friend Dale on guitar (and singing harmony).
The last time I saw Claude was well over a year ago. I made my annual pilgrimage up to Oregon in September of this year. Claude’s owner, Dale, had told me the last time I was there, “In human years, Claude is around ninety.” So I was anxious to see how Claude was doing, hoping that he was still alive.
After arriving at the home where Claude resides in Oregon, and after I settled in, Claude came slowly walking into the living room from the bedroom where he hangs out much of the time. It was a relief just to see him. In times past Claude consented to a tug of war with me, each of us pulling on both ends of a short, knotted rope. This time there was no rope in sight. “Claude has diabetes now, and he doesn’t move so fast anymore,” Dale told me. “He also has cataracts and doesn’t see so well. He gets a shot for his diabetes twice a day (and then an edible treat).” Time takes its toll.
The next day Dale and I went to the back house, with Claude slowly following us, and set our hands to wood and wire, doing a few tunes. Claude didn’t sing. A few more tunes, but no hound sounds to accompany Dale on, “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” A half dozen more tunes, but the only response from Claude was his constant look at both of us. I have to relate that there was no audience, and Claude didn’t have his microphone, but in the past he would take the lead vocal in that back house musical get together. I must confess I was getting a little depressed because Claude just sat there. I thought to myself, “I guess he just doesn’t have it anymore.”
After about forty five minutes of singing and playing, with no response from Claude, Dale and I stopped. I had been playing the fiddle, and just for the heck of it I pulled the bow across the A and E strings (an easy double stop as you fiddlers know). The moment was pierced only by the sound of the fiddle. No guitar, and no singing. I don’t know why I even did it, but when I did, Claude put his head back, nose high in the air, and “sang,” high volume, key of A, I think it was.
For me, that alone made the 400 mile trek to Oregon a worthwhile rubber- to- the asphalt event. When Claude put his head back and let-ER-go, I thought to myself, “Claude is in pretty good shape after all.” What really eased my mind was when Dale responded, “Claude usually sings along here in the back house, and he still performs in public. I guess he was just tired today.”