In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, the comedian Julian Clary recalls the moment his beloved Fanny the Wonder Dog entered his life
Image: Julian Clary)
TV funnyman Julian Clary has opened up on his love for dogs in a new book.
The on-screen comedian, 62, shot to stardom in the 1980s and has revealed the role canines have played in his life in the book called The Lick of Love: How dogs changed my life.
From one of Britain’s best-loved comedians, the memoir celebrates the bond between man and dog – an ‘autobidography’ of sorts.
The Lick of Love takes readers on a tour of his colourful life – and wherever it has taken him, Clary has had a dog by his side.
Fanny the Wonder Dog, who came into his life when he was somewhat adrift, propelled him up the ranks of the alternative comedy circuit and onto television.
In the following excerpt, Clary recalls the moment Fanny the Wonder Dog first entered his life.
“She was the loveliest creature I had ever seen. A sudden sob pulsated in my throat. I thought my heart would burst with love. I got her a bowl of water and she drank most of it then sat down, tidying any drops of water on her chin or whiskers with her tongue. Now she looked at me with a mixture of amusement and inquisitiveness.
“I sat on the floor next to her and she leant forward, sniffing me several times before licking the back of my hand. She licked for so long that I eventually moved my hand and stroked her head, which caused her to raise her head, freeze and close her eyes.
“Slowly her ears relaxed and I leant forward to kiss her gently on the nose, then she licked the side of my face. The pair of us sat there on the kitchen floor for some time, getting to know each other.
“After more stroking and licking, I patted my lap but she looked away shyly. She sat stiffly, looking questioningly at me, not sure of what was expected of her. After stroking her head again, I slid my hand down her shoulder and under her front leg, then slowly lifted her paw and held it, gently massaging the pad before placing it on my leg.
“She dropped her head a little and her body softened. It took me a while, but slowly I eased her onto my lap. She sat there awkwardly, as if expecting to be thrown off, before suddenly flopping down with a noisy sigh.
“Her limbs relaxed, her eyes closed and she curled into a ball, her tail wrapped around her face and over her ear with a slow, balletic flourish, as if she were silently rehearsing the entrance of the shades in La Bayadère.
“While she slept, I traced small circular movements across her head and ears, enjoying the sound of her breathing. I had much to think about. She was here now. I was responsible for her. Life would never be the same.
“Once home, in my room I laid her on my bed and stroked her, wondering what name would suit her. I wanted something proper, something that would imply a dog of some substance. Margaret and Maureen were strong contenders for a few hours, until the word ‘Fanny’ just came out of my mouth spontaneously. Who knows what thought process preceded it? I knew it was right because she pricked up her ears and looked at me knowingly. So that was it.
“I spent a lot of time talking to Fanny. She would gaze at me with great interest and I’d chat away about whatever was on my mind, where we were going, who I was hoping to meet.
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“She had an expressive face, sometimes knowing or aghast or even cynical. I’m very wary of crediting dogs with human emotions and understanding, but Fanny was exceptional. She never looked at me with blank incomprehension. Boredom, yes, and there were occasions when she’d fall asleep while I was talking, but (when awake) she always seemed to be considering whatever I was telling her and her psychic response was always one of love: unconditional love, the great gift of dogs to humanity.
“I very quickly became emotionally dependent on Fanny and couldn’t remember my life before her. She came almost everywhere with me. We were partners, and I was never lonely with her by my side. I’ve no idea why, but one day I said to her, ‘You’ll stay with me till I’m forty.’
“At twenty-one, forty seemed a lifetime away, of course. She gave me a steady, unusually mournful look. She understood the demand and the commitment she was solemnly undertaking. ‘Pace yourself,’ I advised. ‘It’s going to be a bumpy ride.’”
An excerpt from The Lick of Love: How Dogs Changed My Life by Julian Clary, £20, Quercus. ebook and audio book also available.