Wednesday, February 22, 2012

laying to rest

The member of the family most profoundly affected by Charlie's death was Dusty. His normal shadow personality has been amplified; he is beyond clingy at the moment. It's understandable, as he met Charlie when he was 12 weeks old and didn't spend much time apart from him since then. We suspected that it was even harder on him since he hadn't had a chance to see Charlie's body. From his perspective, Charlie had simply vanished.

So when the vet called yesterday to see if we wanted to bury the body, instead of sending it to be cremated, the choice was easy, if for no other reason than to offer Dusty the chance for some sort of understanding on the matter. (We were also very glad that Charlie could return in the end to the farm he had loved.) The boys willingly dug a neat and substantial hole in a little glen after school yesterday, and my LSH and I picked him up this morning from the vet's office.

Dusty took his time sniffing and examining the body. From time to time he would come to my LSH or me for reassurance, but he returned several times and we could almost see the wheels turning as he worked his way through the experience. When he was finished, we used the hand-sewn fabric bag so thoughtfully given to us by the vet, and tucked his John Deere collar, which he had worn for so many years, in with him. Charlie was always happy to have his collar put back on if it was taken off for any reason, as if he appreciated that it stamped him as belonging to us. It seemed right that it stayed with him.

Out in the sun this morning, while my LSH and I filled in the hole with the birds chattering away and a light breeze whispering through the still-bare branches, I thought about what an apt phrase "laid to rest" is. There is something cathartic and calming about the process—it has more than a whiff of the primal about it, and it must speak to some deep-seated need for us to bring a life full circle. Even in digging the hole, the boys seemed to take comfort in the act of preparing a final resting place; they had taken great care with the job.

How apt, on Ash Wednesday of all days, to reflect: "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."


  1. Ash Wednesday indeed. Lovely post Kris, thank you for sharing. Badger went through the same process this summer when our older dog passed and I brought the death blanket home. He literally ate half of his usual for months. We are still trying to make a good plan for another companion but the match must be so right. On so many levels.