In the past I’ve written a couple of columns on Claude, The “Singing” Dog. I wrote about how Claude was homeless in Oregon, and how he made his way up the driveway of friends of mine, a house on a five acre, tree studded paradise that became Claude’s home for the last eight years.
And how Claude obtained his last name, the same last name as my friend, which is Hopper. That’s how this dog became know as Claude Hopper.
At his new home Claude began to “sing.” My friends, Dale and Sharon Hopper, are singers and performers. Bluegrass, old time country, and “whatever” is the music that they perform, and they are alive and pickin’ every chance they get.
As soon as Claude adjusted to his new environment he let it be known that he was not your ordinary Jack Russell Terrier. During a live song being performed by Dale in the back yard, Claude put his head back and began to “sing” (okay, howl) along to the song, “Cattle Call,” key of D, and you know what? Claude’s “singing” was also in the key of D.
Anyway, during the last eight years Claude made his way from singing in the backyard to performing in front of live audiences, complete with his own stool, own microphone, and red handkerchief/necktie. He even got his picture and story in some of the local newspapers.
My friend Dale has a really good singing voice. He never made the “big time,” but my opinion is that this is because he didn’t go-for-it in the music bizz. He was too busy raising a family, keeping music as a hobby; a hobby that earned $400 a gig back in the 70’s and 80’s. But eventually Dale got “upstaged,” by a dog.
Right, you guessed it, by Claude. After Claude began his performing career he got more applause and audience reaction than his master, Dale. Of course Dale didn’t mind, in fact he often said, “That’s a good thing.”
So Claude’s career brought him to many a new place to perform, got him some press, and like so many other performers he is now on You Tube (“Claude the Singing Dog”).
Sadly, last Sunday afternoon I got a call from Dale, letting me know that Claude is no longer with us. Claude had diabetes for the last few years, but things were going along okay until around the first of July when his health began to deteriorate. July 26th was Claude’s last public performance, “Concert In The Park,” in Cave Junction, Oregon.
As always he loved the attention of the audience, and as he often did he kept singing for about ten seconds after the rest of the band concluded his two favorite songs, “Cattle Call,” and “I Taught My Dog To Yodel.” Dale told me on the phone, “Claude was weak, but he perked up on those two songs, and did what he loved to do best.” But this was not Claude’s last song.
As Claude lay on the blanket bed at the veteranian’s on Friday night, August 3rd, Dale picked up his guitar and began to sing. With a good deal of effort, Claude lifted up his head and sang his last song, just before the animal doctor did what he knew was best to ease Claude’s pain and suffering.
Dale told me that even though Claude was suffering for the past couple of years he never complained, whined, or whimpered. He always rose to the occasion, performed, and came through when he was called upon. I had the good fortune of seeing Claude perform at least a dozen times over the years. Like good people we’ve know, we’ll miss Claude, and know that somewhere Claude is singing his heart out, pain free.
On the phone Dale read me, “A Dog’s Prayer.” I’d never heard of it before, but I’ll pass it along:
A DOG’s PRAYER
“Treat me kindly, my beloved master, for no heart in the world is more grateful for kindness than the loving heart of me.
Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your hand between blows, your patience and understanding will more quickly teach me the things you would have me do.
Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music, as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when your footstep falls upon my waiting ear.
When it is cold and wet, please take me inside, for I am now a domesticated animal, no longer used to bitter elements. And I ask no greater glory than the privilege of setting at your feet beside the heart. Though had you no home, I would rather follow you through ice and snow than rest upon the softest pillow in the warmest home in all the land, for you are my god and I am your devoted worshiper.
Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for although I should not reproach you were it dry, I cannot tell you when I suffer thirst. Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and play and do your bidding, to walk by your side, and stand ready, willing and able to protect you with my life should your life be in danger.
And beloved master, should the great Master see fit to deprive me of my health or sight, do no turn me away from you. Rather hold me gently in your arms as skilled hands grant me the merciful boon of eternal rest, and I will leave you knowing with the last breath I drew, my fate was ever safest in your hands.”