I shared with the world my feelings about our dog Detail when he died last year. He was the first pet who died on my watch. He died! How rude. Or something. Death used to be so abstract. That year, Detail was part of a string of deaths adding a different dimension to the word for me.
Out here in the suburbs it is Against County Law to bury a dead pet in your backyard. Part of me puffs up my chest and stamps my foot saying “Balls to that! It’s OUR property! We shall bury our beloved dead dog on OUR property should we so choose!” But then I try to imagine digging a hole in the Virginia clay deep enough to bury anything adequately. That makes me un-puff into my typical law abiding citizen self.
Back when I was a kid, I remember digging graves for my deceased pet gerbils and even a fish or two. We never dug deep. That clay and all. Once my best-neighborhood-friend-growing-up and I had a little ceremony for an expired goldfish. We buried that fish in a shallow grave on the top of the hill in our adjoining backyards. Her cat dug it up shortly thereafter. We saw the desecrated burial plot. I don’t much like thinking about that.
We paid $150 to have Detail cremated, his ashes neatly packed into a lovely wooden box suitable for display. The process seemed a little sanitized, probably a good thing. The neatness soothed.
I am unsure of suitable etiquette for storing a beloved pet’s cindered remains. My dad has had many dogs. I asked him what he did with their ashes and he said, “They are on a shelf in the garage.” Hmm. Not what I had in mind. Even if it was, we don’t have a garage. I imagine keeping Detail’s ashes until his sister assumes the same form. I have this rather sappy idea of mixing them together and spreading them in the reservoir where they used to love to swim. Rather like The Scrapbook, it may well be something I need to do for me.
Over the ensuing months, waiting for Cosine to catch up, Detail, in his polished wooden box, moved to various perches around the living room. He spent some time on the mantel. Then a month or so on a side table by a plant and a picture of The Boy. Next he moved atop the CD tower. I liked that location pretty well. We walked by often and he’d catch our eye. Plus he had a great view out the picture window.
I suppose it may sound a bit, well, a bit odd if I share how often I stroke the top of that polished wooden box and speak a few words to Detail, Our Dearly Departed Dog. He was a good ole boy, he was.
Anyway. Whilst dusting and rearranging various decorative items that dwell in our living room, a candle came to rest atop Detail’s box. Seemed like a good place for it so I left it there.
Then The Boy came home for spring break. He rebuked, “Mom, what was that candle doing on top of Detail?! I moved it.”
I laughed, “It was keeping him company, decorating his space. He liked it.” (Me being bold enough to proclaim what our dead dog was feeling seemed entirely reasonable. I’m sure you agree.)
The Boy shook his head, “Uh uh. No way. How could he? It’s.. it’s… so disrespectful! He’s not some kind of birthday cake!” The words "birthday cake" dripped with scorn. Wendy looked bemused yet nodded in agreement.
So now there is nothing sitting atop Detail in his fancy wooden box. I still think he liked the candle. I don’t think it was disrespectful. Do you?