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24 July, 2011

And Her Little Doggy, Too

Newcomers to this blog, expecting gardening or backroads or nature, you are about to get a dose of the shiftlessness and dissanctity that crops up from time to time. Continue on only if you are not readily offended by death and sacrilege:

Lately, something got me to remembering deaths in the family. Not sad, really, and not deep reflections. I'm about as sacrilegious (weird, but accurate spelling for that word, did some lexicographer play god and switch the i and e?) about death as I am about most things, and as apt to focus on comic tangents and weird details. 

So of course I thought back to the chihuahua incident.

Grandma was in her 90s when she died, and had had for companionship over decades of widowhood a series of chihuahuas. Always tan colored, always named for something approximately that color (Taffy, Peanut, and other ecruvian monikers). Chihuahuas seem to come in two flavors--cute and friendly or shaky and high strung--and hers tended to be the latter. Loving to her mama, and snippy li'l misanthrope to all others. 

But she loved her beige bitches, so we all tried to tolerate them and hope they'd do us the favor of not biting us. We came to love them for the happiness they brought her, for their fierce guardianship of our matriarch. It was good to know that in her lonely hours, a canine friend stayed with her. 

When grandma finally got really sick, a year or two after doctors had said she'd be dead, her side-kick went along for the ride. Both of them had aged beyond their species' usual life span, senior beyond their friends, into the long lonely tail of the normal distribution. Each seemed to realize that her time on earth was about to end, and made peace with that knowledge.

Grandma could see that the dog was headed downhill as well, and before she died, asked that they be buried together. 

Which struck some of the kinfolk as a little odd, but not me. People have been buried with beloved pets for millenia, and I thought it was fitting and sweet. 

But when grandma died, and the dog cried, the surviving humans fell short. I think that the dead spend most of their time being dead, and don't really worry about retribution for non-fulfillment of dying wishes (plenty of which stem from dementia, spur of the moment nonsense, or an overly heightened sense of drama), but soon found myself the only person with any interest in making the effort. It seemed pretty obvious to me that an incontinent aged dog, crushed with the loss of her human, ought to make that final journey. Besides, nobody seemed to be stepping up to take on a creature that would spend its last days snarling at it's new caretaker and excreting various substances into their abode.

Grandma's kids dismissed it out of hand. Some were convinced that the Health Department wouldn't allow it, or we'd be doing something illegal. (Really? Two dead creatures sealed in a box six feet under constitute a health risk sufficient to mobilize authorities in a small southern town?) Or the graveyard crew would not let us do it. (I was ready to plead and bribe if necessary, suspecting that I could do it no questions asked if I just played the Dying Wish card.) There was of course the unspoken but palpable suspicion that it was not Christian to bury a pet with her, reinforced by the fact that the heathen grandson was the plan's only real advocate (never mind that the clan's senior Christian had asked for this co-burial).

In the end, she was buried alone, and her dog was euthanized within a week, mostly because she proved to be moribund and inconvenient. I never found out what happened to the body, and am sure only that it was nothing so dignified as lying for eternity with her friend. I'd returned home by that point, and could not even go do a night burial, putting the wee hound in close proximity, if not sharing the coffin.

The regret is not strong, but it remains. I harbor little bits of sadness: at the disregard of children for their mom's wish, at my failure to force the issue. Grandma remains dead, does not haunt me, and it probably does not matter, but I do wish I'd followed through on her desire.

In retrospect, I should have staged the dog's death in the days between grandma's dying and the burial. As I thought about that this week, morbidly delving into the logistics such a move would have taken, I digressed as usual into the realm of the ridiculous, and in so found laughter. 

If nobody would agree to have me take the dog to the vet to be put down, could I just make it seem like the dog had stopped breathing. Visions of that scene in every hospital murder episode on TV, me leaning in with a pillow...nah, they'd suspect me. It might work to say she'd just died of a broken heart...maybe, but the opportunity never presented itself (besides which, too maudlin, not enough comic potential for a never-gonna-happen-anyway plan). 

Ultimately, I think the best plan would have been to make it look like a suicide: dog swinging from her leash, tiny chair kicked over beneath her, illegible note. The family would have been just impressed enough by that to let me bury the dog where she belonged. Me, the dog, and grandma would have been laughing a satisfied little laugh.

1 comment:

  1. AND grandma would have had P-dog with her. Aww.