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Johnny Carson was brought to tears by this heart-wrenching poem Jimmy Stewart wrote for his dog
via Johnny Carson / YouTube

Given today's fractured media landscape, it's hard to imagine the impact that Johnny Carson had on pop culture.

Throughout most of his run as host of "The Tonight Show" from 1962 to 1992, most of America only had three television channels and there were only two late-night talk shows, at most.

Carson's classy but thoroughly Midwestern persona held up a mirror to American society. His brilliance wasn't just his comedic timing, but his reactions to the celebrities and politicians he interviewed on his show.


When Johnny laughed, America laughed. When he cringed, American cringed. When he thought someone was talented, well American probably agreed as well.

So when Johnny Carson cried one night in July of 1981, it's safe to say most of American probably welled up along with him.

Iconic film actor Jimmy Stewart ("It's a Wonderful Life," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, ''Rear Window") appeared on the show and admitted he had recently taken up the hobby of writing poetry.

So he shared one he recently wrote about his dog, Beau.

"I'll Never Forget a Dog Named Beau" by Jimmy Stewart

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.

According to "Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog That Matches Your Personality" Stewart had a dog named Beau and his death affected the actor deeply.

RELATED: A poem about death has gone viral for the beautiful, universal truth it contains

"While shooting a movie in Arizona, Stewart received a phone call from Dr. Keagy, his veterinarian, who informed him that Beau was terminally ill, and that [Stewart's wife] Gloria sought his permission to perform euthanasia. Stewart declined to give a reply over the phone, and told Keagy to 'keep him alive and I'll be there.' Stewart requested several days' leave, which allowed him to spend some time with Beau before granting the doctor permission to euthanize the sick dog. Following the procedure, Stewart sat in his car for 10 minutes to clear his eyes of tears. Stewart later remembered: 'After [Beau] died there were a lot of nights when I was certain that I could feel him get into bed beside me and I would reach out and pat his head. The feeling was so real that I wrote a poem about it and how much it hurt to realize that he wasn't going to be there any more.'"

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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