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Goodbye, Elvis – you leave some tough paw prints to fill

Elvis, I’m sad to report, has left the building.

Elvis our dog, that is.

The cockapoo the Clark family named in honor of the King of Rock gave up the ghost one morning during my recent vacation. Unlike the real Elvis, who died a drug-addled death on his bathroom floor at Graceland, our ancient pooch passed gracefully in his bed. He was 16.

Oh, we did our best to keep him going.

A trip to the vet. A late-night run to the doggie E.R. Pills. Shots. Special food …

Nothing worked.

Elvis stopped eating and drinking. Slowly, he slipped away.

Losing a pet is never easy, especially when your critter has played such a long and colorful role.

Elvis was more than one of man’s best friends. He was a political ally, a recurring cur who was always glad to lend a helping paw to my columnist needs.

I once gave Elvis a nationally televised doggie IQ test. The results helped me prove scientifically that my lowly cockapoo was more capable than then-Spokane County Coroner Dexter Amend.

We spent a good share of the last few days thinking about the memories Elvis left behind.

There was the time I took him to participate in a celebrity dog race. We packed him in the car and drove to Post Falls.

My kids, Ben and Emily, were so excited to have their puppy get some VIP attention.

That is, until we all went through the establishment’s main door. Whereupon Elvis stopped, hunkered down and – in front of our greeting committee – did his business.

Elvis endured many indignities.

The kids tied fuzzy toy antlers onto his head for Christmas. Emily was particularly fond of dressing Elvis up in a variety of costumes. Elvis was routinely beaten in wild front room wrestling matches with Emily’s cat, Elmo.

Elvis was a lucky dog. He cheated death three times: twice after being hit by cars and once in the front yard bushes. His throat was ripped open by what we suspect was a startled, ill-tempered raccoon.

After the kids moved out, Elvis migrated a few blocks away to live with Grandma.

He quickly became her dog. And her best bud.

My mom talked to Elvis day and night, never minding one bit that her four-legged roomie gradually grew as deaf as his food dish. She pampered him with treats. She referred to him as her “good little boy.”

I’ll let you decide what that says about me.

Elvis made his comeback special to my home last October, after my mother broke her pelvis during a fall.

By then he was showing the signs of deterioration: arthritis, bad teeth, moments of dazed confusion …

He was probably a lot like the real Elvis was at the end.

So how did the dog get his name?

That happened in early 1991, on the Saturday before the late rock idol’s birthday. (The King was born Jan. 8, 1935.)

Elvis was in the news a lot that weekend. The hockey game had Elvis impersonators. Graceland was featuring four days of festivities capped with a big birthday banquet.

My lovely wife, Sherry, shocked us all when she fell for a neighbor’s new puppy and decided we should get one, too. We got the telephone number of the breeder and arranged for a time to take a peek at her pups.

“Elvis would make a fine name for a dog,” I announced during the drive.

My kids weren’t convinced. Fate, however, won them over.

We walked through the door of a modest home where a woman led us to a cardboard box full of puppies. Ben reached in and fished out a tiny male. He stood up holding the white dog. Sherry and I gasped. Over his shoulder – gazing down from a wall – was a large velvet painting of Elvis Presley.

We looked around. Elvis was everywhere. On collector plates. On photographs. On record albums …

Debbie the cockapoo breeder was an Elvis fan of the highest order.

And so we drove away with this tail-wagging, wriggling ball of fluff. The first thing we did at home was to give our new dog a bath and lather him up with a few dabs of “Love Me Tender” shampoo that I had bought at a traveling Elvis museum.

Elvis had a good life. He never bit anybody.

Adios, old dog.

Thank you verrry much.

Tags: Elvis