Let's be real, though, we were only partners like Batman and Robin are partners, Not the cool, kick-butt Robin either, but the one from the TV show who was a goofball at best.
I was definitely the dorky sidekick.
Claren is the one who danced with my friend at her wedding. She is the one strangers would stop and marvel at. Even today, one of the receptionists came out to the car crying and said how special Claren was and how everyone loved her.
But even much-loved dogs get old. Their bodies work less well. The allergy that they once ignored becomes overwhelming.
And such it was with Claren.
She was drinking a ton, her legs were weakening, and her skin allergies had become unbearable. She was one big sore.
The vet had a room set up with a table that raised and lowered all ready, so I didn't need to get out of my chair. Claren got right on, and they raised it to my level. The vet explained what would happen, and we all patted Claren. Some techs came in and put a catheter in. Then the vet came back, and when I was ready, gave her a sedative and then the final shot.
Claren hardly moved throughout.
It was the sedative that did me in, just seeing her eyes close and knowing they wouldn't again open.
And she died.
We sat for a while longer.
When life was hard for me, I'd go outside, get Claren to put her front feet on my lap, and press my head against hers. I imagined her taking the crap on herself and it made me feel better. I did that once more, then we left.
I can't overestimate how much Claren has meant to me. She helped me become more like the person I want to be, and I will always be indebted to Canine Companions for Independence for giving me this wonderful being.
But it doesn't stop with CCI. Someone took care of her Mom; Claren's puppy-raisers, Mary-Ann and Charlie, molded her into the loving dog I knew; the hundreds of people I met through CCI taught me so much about dogs and life; the cadre of walkers, water-getters, poop-picker-uppers and friends at USA TODAY gave their hearts freely; vets in Falls Church (Falls Church Animal Hospital), Herndon (Herndon-Reston Animal Hospital) and elsewhere treated her ailments; Dominion Pet Center (my first job!) kept me well-supplied; the folks at my new job welcomed her for the two years she was there; of course, my family helped so much; and it goes on and on.
I won't get into the theology of whether dogs go to heaven, but I know Claren is running, itchless finally, somewhere with her many friends, including Jack, Cleo, Sajen and Tanner, rolling in poop, diving into lakes and eating 73 meals a day.
I will get a successor dog, no doubt about that. But for now, I will be sad and miss my girl.