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Jimmy Stewart's Ode to His Dog Beau

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The video clip below is from an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Hollywood legend Jimmy Stewart was Carson's guest that evening. During the interview, taped 30 years ago in 1981, Stewart decided to read a poem to Carson and the audience. Initially, it seemed like a lighthearted moment, evident when both Carson and the audience were laughing during the beginning of the reading. After a few moments, it was clear that Stewart was presenting to everyone a very touching moment -- words from the soul dedicated to Stewart's beloved dog, Beau.

Be careful, this video clip will make a grown man cry -- Johnny Carson included.

The bond between man and dog is unmistakable to say the least. Jimmy Stewart loved his dog so much that, according to an excerpt from the book Why We Love the Dogs We Do by Stanley Coren, Stewart, who rarely made excessive demands when filming a movie, requested time off to see his ailing dog.

Here is what Coren wrote in the book:

...Stewart was making a picture which was shooting on location in Arizona. One evening he got a phone call from his veterinarian, a Dr. Keagy. The call was about Beau. Keagy told him that Beau was very sick. He was having trouble breathing and was in considerable pain. The disease had progressed to the point that it was obvious to Keagy that the dog couldn't be saved. He was calling for permission to end Beau's life quickly. Stewart's wife Gloria said that she couldn't make that decision since Beau was Jimmy's dog. "I can't just tell you to put him to sleep like this," Stewart said, "Not over the phone-not without seeing him. You keep him alive and I'll be there." Stewart was always known as an easy actor to work with, who never made excessive demands. So, the director was taken aback when he went to him to ask for a few days off to fly home to see to his dog. The leave was granted and Stewart got to sit with Beau for a long while before making the decision. He later admitted that when he left the veterinarian's office he had to sit in his car for around 10 minutes, just to clear his eyes of tears, so that it would be safe to drive home.

Here is a transcript of the poem, courtesy of Dogster.com.

He never came to me when I would call
Unless I had a tennis ball,
Or he felt like it,
But mostly he didn't come at all.

When he was young
He never learned to heel
Or sit or stay,
He did things his way.

Discipline was not his bag
But when you were with him things sure didn't drag.
He'd dig up a rosebush just to spite me,
And when I'd grab him, he'd turn and bite me.

He bit lots of folks from day to day,
The delivery boy was his favorite prey.
The gas man wouldn't read our meter,
He said we owned a real man-eater.

He set the house on fire
But the story's long to tell.
Suffice it to say that he survived
And the house survived as well.

On the evening walks, and Gloria took him,
He was always first out the door.
The Old One and I brought up the rear
Because our bones were sore.

He would charge up the street with Mom hanging on,
What a beautiful pair they were!
And if it was still light and the tourists were out,
They created a bit of a stir.

But every once in a while, he would stop in his tracks
And with a frown on his face look around.
It was just to make sure that the Old One was there
And would follow him where he was bound.

We are early-to-bedders at our house-
I guess I'm the first to retire.
And as I'd leave the room he'd look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I'd give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I'd fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He'd tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I'd feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I'd pat his head.

And there were nights when I'd feel this stare
And I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I'd feel him sigh
and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he'd be glad to have me near.

And now he's dead.
And there are nights when I think I feel him
Climb upon our bed and lie between us,
And I pat his head.

And there are nights when I think
I feel that stare
And I reach out my hand to stroke his hair,
But he's not there.

Oh, how I wish that wasn't so,
I'll always love a dog named Beau.

Even though both Stewart and Carson have long passed, it's good to have online video services like Youtube keep their memories alive so we can enjoy cherishable moments like Jimmy Stewart's ode to his dog, Beau.