For the Love of Dog
Our Endless Affair with Man's Best Friend
Photography: Craig Wolfrom
(page 9 of 9)
I had lost small pets before and dealt with their deaths unceremoniously for the most part, either by toilet flushing or garbage bagging. There was one Viking burial of a mouse on the bayou. We had one fabulous ceremony for my mom’s favorite cat. Turns out, after a candlelight vigil and poetry, we buried someone else’s cat and Sam came back from the dead the next day. But, I stray. Emma was my first love. I sent out birth announcements when I got her. I thought she was my child. She spooned with me like no man ever could.
I hurt so badly, like no one could understand, I was sure, but, I wasn’t alone in my grief. I had real kids, a husband, cats and a dog and friends missing her, too, and I had to determine how we would say goodbye that would serve us all.
I returned to the vet’s office the next day to discuss my options with Dr. Mark. He offered me a room to spend some time with Emma alone, something I would have thought was an intrusion on the business day and something I would have been too shy to ask for. I studied her slightly frozen body. I knew her spirit had left, I am convinced I felt it leave in the driveway of my home 12 hours earlier. But I had to decide what to do with her remains.
I could have her cremated. They could take her and either dispose of the ashes, return them in a keepsake box or in a temporary urn to house them until I decided to spread them myself. Or, I could bring her home.
Dr. Mark shared with me his experience. In his years as a pet owner, he had experienced nearly as many personal losses as he had helped others endure and long ago decided he would prefer to bury his deceased pets on his land out Croy Canyon.
With a head full of options, I went home and watched Where the Red Fern Grows, sobbed till I was dehydrated and declared to my husband (who had a year earlier cremated his beloved blue heeler with his favorite black Stetson) that I would need a great hole dug in the yard.
The girls and I had scoped out the front and back yards. Beneath the pine out front was a favorite cool-down spot, but we couldn’t see the spot from inside and, when Emma was inside, she was in her favorite chair by the window, gazing out. In the garden beneath the window seat it would be. Taking cues from the girls, we planned the burial. They wanted to see Emma, even though she was frozen. They stroked her and talked to her while their dad dug the hole. We dressed her in her favorite fleece court jester coat and the girls chose a tiara from their costume box, “Because she was the first princess, Mama,” they advised. We dabbed lavender oil over her; I had read that it warded off evil spirits. The girls sang a few songs from their minimal repertoire: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and the classy “My Humps,” and dropped in pictures of them with her, pictures they drew for her, a letter we wrote for her and a snack.
Before the burial, I had sent out e-mails to people who knew her in Arizona, Texas, California, Missouri and around Idaho. The response was validating. Emma had touched so many people. She had a fan club in our neighborhood and some folks raised money for us to help with her vet expenses. My dad got a photo of her lasered onto granite. Dr. Mark made a river stone for her garden spot, too.
Weeks after the ceremony, Mark and wife Barbara led me and a photographer and their passel of dogs up to a small hill behind their home to his personal pet cemetery. Each spot was marked with a river rock stone with a fitting description engraved on it. Once again, I was validated. I knew I had made the right choice for Emma, and me, and my family.
In this ever-rushing world we live in, grief seems to be relegated to the car, the bathroom, anywhere but in front of anyone else and on anyone else’s time. Don’t let the rest of the world’s short-sightedness dictate how you say goodbye. Take time out. Listen to your heart. Talk it out, shout it out, cry it out. Try and end it all with a smile of remembering a soul that enriched your life. You’ll only regret what you didn’t do.
Some places to turn
Animal Hospice of the Wood River Valley has a fabulous website loaded with information and support. Here you can share your pet’s life story. No pet is too strange! The anonymity may make it easier for some to share. http://animalhospice.org
Headstones, markers, memorials
Hailey Nursery, Inc. Signs and Memorials: www.haileynursery.com or 208.788.3161
To have a picture tribute lasered onto marble, granite, travertine, wood, leather, glass, acrylic and metal: Capstone Laser Design, Mike Kimball 208.481.1801.