Lessons From Clarence – September 2017

Kraig Steinhoff and his dog, ClarenceYears ago, while hunting I found an abandoned german shorthair dog that was lying in a snowbank in the ditch.  I was on a pheasant hunting trip with my family and we thought we saw a skunk as we travel down a gravel road.  As we got closer we realized that it was not a skunk, but was a shivering, scared, abandoned dog later to be renamed, Clarence.   

I can remember Clarence looking at me and the look in his eyes as I cautiously reached down to say hello with a pat on the head.  We had to carry him into the vehicle and I sat him on my lap in the front seat.  Clarence took a long time to warm up and stop shivering, but he didn’t fight me to get off my lap.  We kept him along for the rest of that day and decided to put the word out for anyone looking for a lost dog.  No one that we talked to knew of a lost dog, and no phone calls ever came in from all of the people I left my number with.  Looking back, it was fate for me to happen upon Clarence on that cold Saturday afternoon.   

As I got to know Clarence I soon realized that he had serious trust issues.   The first time I let him out of the Suburban he ran out into the picked corn field, walked around in a circle, and lied down with his head tucked close to his body.  No matter what I said, I could not get him to come back to me or even move.  Again, I had to pick him up and carry him back to his spot in the front seat on my lap.  The next day was a bit nicer outside and I hoped that if we took him along we could stop hunters in the area and find his owner.  No such luck with finding his owner, however, I was able to get Clarence to follow me and not lie down in the fields.  One time that day I raised my voice and he instantly ran from me and hid underneath the vehicle.  As I went to approach him he had the same look of fear as I witnessed the day before and was again trembling.  I can’t prove it, however, I would say that Clarence’s life before me put the fear of humans in him.   

Fast forward several years and Clarence ended up being an outstanding hunter and man’s/my best friend.  He learned to trust again and treated me like a king.  I learned three vital lessons from Clarence.  

  1. Be excited for what’s next. 
  2. Treat everyone the same and be kind to them.  
  3. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and don’t give up.    

Clarence was struck by a car one evening at dusk as we were finishing up a pheasant hunt.  He was in such bad shape that I had to put him down.  Clarence left my life in the same way he entered.  I was able to hold him and feel his heart beat for the last time.  There is no question in my mind that Clarence came into my life to help me just as Clarence did for George in It’s a Wonderful Life 

I can’t help but think that my lessons learned from Clarence are positive lessons for educators to pass on to our students.  We may encounter students that have trauma in their lives and lose their trust with others.  However, I believe we need to help them trust again and be excited for what’s next.   

“Life is an adventure, dare it” Mother Teresa