Cleveland Comhrá: Joys and Sorrows
By Bob Carney
We lost Cian, our Irish Wolfhound to cancer this past August. He was the gentlest dog I’ve ever known, His passing was a time of great sorrow in our home and that weekend it was hard for us to think of anything else.
I first became interested in Irish Wolfhounds when I was a teenager growing up in West Park; we used to play ball at Gunning Park on Puritas Avenue. and someone in the neighborhood had two wolfhounds I would see on occasion there. He used to let them run in the field, they were a sight to see, and I remember thinking some day I’ll have a dog like that.
Over the next forty or so years a lot happened, Mary and I met and started a family, there was always work, a house to care for, and dogs and cats. Life happened. Somewhere around 1990, I started working on Mary to give me the OK to start looking for a wolfhound, our sons were ten and thirteen. We lived in a small bungalow in Parma with one dog and a herd of cats.
We compromised, she said no and I went along with that. A few months later, Mary gave me a Chesapeake Bay Retriever for Valentine’s Day. For the next fifteen years “Chessie” was my girl, even when another dog came to live with us. She outlived the other two and when her time came, I was devastated; I swore I would never become that attached to a dog again.
Eight years later, we were at Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival; I always made it a point to stop and see Alex Adams, who was responsible for bringing the Irish breed dog program to the festival way back in it’s early years. I had met Alex years before, we had a mutual love of motorcycles and knew many of the same people.
As we talked, I was making friends with one of Alex’s hounds, and Alex said it was time for me to get a wolfhound. He put me in touch with Rick and Mary Krystowski from Hounds of the Heartland and we made arrangements to get a puppy from them when we returned from Ireland in the fall.
Our lives changed drastically that fall. Living with an Irish Wolfhound comes with some things that don’t necessarily happen with other dogs. Nothing is out of reach, when Cian was around six or seven months old and right around one hundred pounds, he came walking into the living room with a bag of potato chips. We kept them on top of the refrigerator!
On our evening walks, people would always stop to talk and soon everyone knew his name. He loved the attention and his extremely friendly personality drew people to him. He was especially fond of children, when our grandkids came over he was like a little kid himself.
He liked to rough house with me but was always very gentle with everyone else. When the neighbor’s little five pound dog came into the yard, he would lay down and wait for her, as if he was aware of his size.
With Mary’s job as the manager of animal hospital, we’ve always had cats that came to us as unwanted kittens. To see Cian with a kitten asleep in his front legs or curled up next to him was a testament to his nature.
A couple of years later, I let Alex easily convince me we should have a second wolfhound. Cian raised Morrighan and they were inseparable. They walked shoulder to shoulder and were usually close enough to touch when they slept. Doolin, our little Cairn Terrier, came a couple of years ago and Cian did the same with him. Watching him “lose” a game of tug of war with a dog thirty inches shorter and one hundred and forty pounds lighter always amazed me, it was as if he knew Doolin needed the play time and Cian often initiated the game.
All this time Cian was my companion, on our walks, he was always on my right side, and my hand would rest on his back. Morrighan took her cues from him, and if he wasn’t bothered, she wasn’t either. And he was rarely bothered. Barking dogs, loud noises, loud music, pipe bands nothing bothered him. You could see him perk up when he was around people, whether it was a festival, parade or even the farmer’s market.
He was well known in the Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park where we spent our weekend mornings. Mary and I joined the Northeast Ohio Irish Wolfhound Group and have become good friends with many of the members.
About five years ago, I saw an ad in this paper offering an introductory ten week class in the Irish language. I thought it might be fun to learn a few words of Irish I could use with Cian and Morrighan and maybe meet some new people. A few of the people I met that night I now count as some of my closest friends.
I never thought I would become involved to the extent I have with Speak Irish Cleveland. Soon after, John O’Brien asked me if I could contribute a monthly Irish lesson to the Ohio Irish American News. This column followed shortly after. I’ve been blessed to have met, interviewed and become friends with so many people since I became part of this family.
Cian “introduced” me to quite a few of the folks I’ve met, directly or indirectly, so he’s still bringing me joy in all that I do, but mostly because he brought me to all of you. Thank you for listening and thanks Cian.
*Bob Carney is a student of Irish history and language and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday @Pj McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhounds and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hound Morrighan and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org