Nine years ago today we brought our sweet big dog Cleo home from the San Francisco SPCA. She gave us everything anyone can ask for from a dog, or a person for that matter. Our life together motivated me to create Grouchy Puppy and this blog. Her deeds inspired our motto Give Fearlessly Influence Positively.
Some people may remember the #Cleo8 party we threw for her last year. We partied on Facebook and we celebrated on the blog all day! We loved all of the sweet wishes and photos that were sent to Cleo. It was wonderful to witness her positive influence over so many people from all over the world.
Sadly we had to say goodbye to Cleo in late September this year. To honor her memory, and maybe inspire you a little, today, on her special homecoming anniversary, we share five untold stories about this Grouchy Puppy muse and incredible senior dog [...]
That's a beautiful dog
Cleo's good looks and sweet demeanor allowed the alpha streak to get a free pass. She was pure sugar and spice. As time went by, I discovered she had what I call the “pretty girl” syndrome. Cleo was so pretty that people often wouldn’t look past her beauty to see she was covering up a hot spot, an ugly abscess, even her eventual blindness. Notice her teeth, or did her smiling happy face distract you too?
Many know that we adopted Cleo from the San Francisco SPCA, but you may not know that she came to them from a rural county shelter as an owner surrender. After we’d been a family for awhile, I would sometimes tease her about her old life, saying “Cleo, you’re a true city girl now but you sure did keep those crazy country teeth.”
Cleo had been surrendered by her owner for unspecified reasons. But being creative types, we seized this opportunity to write a wild back story for her. We embellished aspects of her previous life depending on who we were talking with. Given her size, and unique blend of Husky and Shepherd, we had a few people believing she had been a fierce “pot dog” guarding acres of valuable marijuana. We let young kids who met Cleo on a dog walk go home thrilled with the notion that they’d met a dog who was part wolf!
Cleo’s confidence and boldness were qualities that drew some people to her, while making others wary. She would test her boundaries, using her size and beauty against you. She didn’t need to beg at the table. If you weren’t careful, her big chocolate eyes surrounded by the fluff of her lion mane would have you willingly breaking every rule for her.
For awhile we used doggy daycare and lodging for Cleo. We used one that included cameras in the play area that we could access from the internet. I will never forget one afternoon refreshing my computer screen dozens of times trying to spot Cleo, only to find out later that they had broken their own rules, and she was hanging out in the office with them because they thought she was a cool dog.
We’d had Cleo for almost three years when we decided to take a month long trip abroad. It was too long for her to be in daycare, even if they thought she was cool, so we looked to dog lover friends. After only one overnight test, a wonderful pair of empty-nesters took Cleo in for the month of May. They had a party while she was there and more people fell in love with Cleo. When we returned they told us stories of how she rode shotgun to the grocery store, sitting in the front seat like a girlfriend, how she was the perfect party hostess and that not once did she harass the next door cat. Soon their friends were asking if Cleo could come stay with them for an overnight visit too.
This was 2007 and resulted in the creation of Team Cleo, made up of people who loved Cleo almost as much as we did. She spent hours or days with various members over the next few years, including one who took video and hundreds of photos of Cleo every time they were together. When she was home alone for a week, a team member requested Cleo to come stay with her for company because Cleo made her feel protected, in addition to enjoying the companionship.
People responded to Cleo’s confidence, and straightforwardness in a welcoming manner or with fear. This was her big dog problem, especially for the uninitiated, but honestly, Cleo had few encounters with people who didn’t at least appreciate her beauty.
Cleo's Positive Influence
Once we sat on a bench outside a grocery store for about twenty minutes. After a few minutes, the woman sitting next to me whispers, “I’m deathly afraid of dogs, one bit me many years ago.” I looked over at her and said that Cleo is a great dog to meet if she was interested in having a positive dog experience. She paused and said in the quietest voice, “you don’t know but my sitting here, for as long as I did, with your big dog right there, was a first for me, ever, but she is very pretty and you both seem nice.” I was floored but cheered that Cleo had put someone else at ease, if even for a moment.
You could talk to Cleo. She was the rare kind of dog that looked you in the eye, and held your gaze, with an intelligence. This caught some people off guard. My aunt would visit and tell everyone that Cleo was knowingly winking at her. Sure, Cleo would turn her head in seconds if you bored her, or took too long to take her photo, but unlike other dogs, she clearly enjoyed her stature in our family — gaining confidence in her status every year. The San Francisco SPCA told us from the start to set Cleo up for success, and that small tip paid dividends throughout her life.
Team Cleo also included a wonderful dog walker who drove the Rudy Bus, a minivan that carried a small select group of dogs out to the beach or the lake at Stern Grove in the afternoons. Mary had a special relationship with all her canine charges but it was incredible to watch the change come over Cleo when she heard the Rudy Bus arrive, followed by the sound of Mary’s key in the door. The soulful grunts Cleo would begin to make, her tail whipping around high in the air like a helicopter blade, then the hopping around while Mary tried to get her harness on. She’d laughingly chastise Cleo about not going outside until she was dressed. It was a sight to see each week.
Oh happy day Cleo!
Life with Cleo was an adventure. We had almost nine amazing years together that felt like a decade! She was so fun she made me wish I had found her sooner just so we’d have more time together. I wish she could have spent more time on earth with us, but I’m forever grateful for the wonderful lessons she passed on, as well as our hilarious moments.
Happy day Cleo! You influenced many. You fearlessly gave to me, to strangers, and to those you met along the way to becoming the best dog ever, and definition of why senior dogs rule!