It was about 16 months ago that we met Clifford. My wife and I were considering adopting yet another dog to add to our pack. We ended up at Safe Haven Humane Society in Albany, and met Clifford. A 10-week-old black lab, the runt was so tiny that you could hold him in one hand. He had a short tail that curled like a pig’s. Usually, puppies sell like hotcakes despite the higher purchase price. Clifford, however, was born with challenges. Blindness from birth was the least of his problems. The guy also had one undescended testicle, a hernia, and a heart murmur. The last condition was the most serious. In addition to being potentially life-threatening, the heart condition would make it unsafe for Clifford to ever have surgery to resolve any of his other conditions. My wife and I fought the urge to adopt him ourselves. We knew we couldn’t possibly give the puppy what he needed, and doubted we could emotionally handle what would likely be a short life span. But as we played with the tiny fuzzball, gently keeping him from bumping chair legs in the shelter lobby, we knew we would have to check back day after day until Clifford did find a home. Or else, maybe we would take him home after all.
Luckily, he went home with Kari and Scott Lasswell the very next day. He proceeded to outlive all the pessimistic projections of vets and techs alike, and grew to full size. In addition to having his own Facebook page, “Clifford’s Calamities,” the tiny pup earned a mention in an earlier Advocate article last summer.
My wife and I visited the Lasswell home recently, and re-met this runt turned full-sized dog. Clifford is 18 months old now, and weighs about 40 pounds. His curly tail hasn’t grown much, and hides itself in a patch of hair like a comb over. He still has the hernia, and that embarrassing issue with his man parts. He still has a slight heart murmur, too, although it has improved. He’s also still blind. But then, Clifford has never known how to see. He doesn’t have to worry too much about strange obstacles in the Lasswell house or yard. He gets the majority of his play and exercise from his best friend and adopted sister Harley. She is a light brown boxer mix about the same size and weight as Clifford. Despite being more than twice his age, Harley is still puppy enough to roughhouse all day with her jet black buddy. They don’t play hide and seek or chase, but do love to wrestle and box with their paws.
“It’s the Clifford and Harley show,” Scott said of the relationship between the two dogs. “They’re always together. This backyard is their world.”
Clifford doesn’t fetch, and will only chew your shoes if he happens to run into them. He will occasionally bump into bushes in the yard and chair legs in the house. But never hard enough to get hurt. When he runs in the yard, it’s usually at a cautious half-speed. Other than the blindness, Clifford behaves like a pretty normal dog. And on at least one occasion, being blind turned out to be an advantage.
When the two dogs escaped out the front door one day, Clifford only went halfway across the street, where he waited for his humans to retrieve him. Harley, like a typical dog in a “jail break” situation, explored the neighborhood and ended up at a laundromat.
When my wife and I first met Clifford, we both agreed that he needed to find just the right home, no matter how long he survived. He’s now over a year and half old and going strong. Looks like the right home found him.
By Dave DeLuca