He was named after the guardian angel in It's a Wonderful Life, and perhaps the 13-year-old collie had one of his own to survive such a difficult ordeal.
After three cold damp days outside, Clarence is home with his family.
The story started on Sunday around 4 p.m. The friendly dog often wandered over to the neighbors' houses to say, "hello". But this time something happened that either confused him or side tracked him. Clarence didn't return to the colonial he calls home on Whip Poor Will Circle. The beloved family dog who suffers from arthritis and other rigors of age was lost. His family knew he was out there somewhere and was trying to get home.
The neighborhood mobilized, and they hit the woods looking for one of their own. "I got help from all my neighbors to search the woods in the area," says Suzanne McDonough, Clarence’s "owner". "It's a great neighborhood."
As the sun set, and darkness crept in, the neighbors turned on all their house lights to help the lost dog find his way.
When he didn't return, the family and friends put up flyers and shared his picture on Facebook and other web sites. Always, McDonough kept looking. She thought that someone might have taken Clarence thinking he was lost and once the flyers went up around town, he would be returned. But that didn't happen. As the search continued for her beloved collie, and hours turned into days, people started saying to her that it wasn't looking good. It was mentioned that dogs his age sometimes wander off when it's time to die. "My dog has a good life," McDonough said. "I knew he wouldn't do that. I knew he was alive. I knew he would try and get home."
Then she heard about Jamie Genereux, a man from Connecticut that uses his black Labrador retriever named Trigger to help track down missing pets. After hearing the story about Clarence, Genereux agreed to help. He only asks for gas money for the trip and suggests a donation be made to an animal rescue. On Wednesday at around 3:30 p.m., 72 hours since Clarence went missing, McDonough's husband John, Genereux, and Trigger set out into the woods.
Genereux thought the collie couldn't have traveled far since he was 13. Within 30 minutes, the missing dog was found. Laying down in a ditch appearing lifeless. He turned to John to express his sympathy thinking it was too late.
But Clarence heard the search party and moved. "He was in a hole with a branch over the top of him," Genereux said. "He just had enough energy to lift his head up. He would not have made it through another night."
Jubilant, they grabbed the tired and dehydrated collie and brought him home. He was fed, given water, and then brought to Cody Pet Hospital in Walpole. The pet hospital was on call for the family’s vet, Whispering Pines Animal Hospital in Norfolk. McDonough could not say enough about the staff that looked after her beloved Clarence and the staff was impressed with the strength of the old dog. "They could not believe all his blood work came back great," she said.
It was decided Clarence didn't need to spend the night at the hospital and would be more comfortable at home. Wednesday night he was resting on blankets and warming up, sitting in front of the fireplace. Neighbors visited to celebrate his return and to make sure Clarence knew how much they cared for him. Children on the street made him cards welcoming him home. Thursday morning he was scheduled to return to the vet to be examined again and receive a thorough cleaning.
Clarence, named after the guardian angel from a Christmas classic, will turn 14 next December. While it's not exactly Christmas yet, the family is celebrating early, thankful for his miraculous return. Once considered the runt of the litter, his family just simply loves him and never doubted he would be trying to get home. If he could talk, he would probably say he knew his family would never give up on him.
"I never thought he was dead," McDonough said. "I never lost hope."
Anyone in need of Jamie Genereux and his dog Trigger's services may reach him at email@example.com. If he can, he's willing to help.