My childhood dog Bean died today. My father called me and told me that she had had three seizures this morning and was having trouble breathing so that i should come up to Highgate as soon as possible, because she needed to be put down.
When i showed up to the Vets office my dad's truck was parked in front and his black lab Ebony was sitting patiently in the drivers seat. I popped Oldham into the cab with him and greeted my dad. As soon as i saw my dad i started to tear up, he had been crying - I gave him a hug.
Something about my father; he is at the same time both deeply emotional and emotionally... ineloquent, (for lack of a better word.) so that it's always seemed to me, that when he does express his feelings, they come from a deep well, or reserve and that he cries for more reasons than there are apparent in that moment.
So i gave him a hug, and we went in to see Bean, who was on the Vets bench with a little doggy oxygen mask on her face, lightly sedated. I wanted to cry, but i didn't. I gave her a long pat and pulled some dried up dirty off of her ear, and scratched her head and bent down close to her face and told her she was a good girl. I patted her some more, my dad said his goodbyes and i gave her my final goodbye, a bunch of little snorting sounds that i used to make to her, and she to me. The vet gave her her shot, turned off her gas, and within a few seconds she was dead. I cried a bit then.
The vet asked if we wanted a cadaver bag, but my dad just scooped her up. I didn't know what he was going to do with her, though i should have. Ever since my dad was young he'd been burying his dogs in the pine forest out behind my childhood home. There were alot of dogs buried out there, 3 of his Airedales, one i remember named Missy, my sister's German Sheppard, Pepper. My dad's beloved lab Ginger, oh, and one of our old cats, either buttons, or shadow. Now Beaner was gonna join them in the pine forest menagerie.
When we pulled up by the woods edge i saw that my father had already dug a deep hole, deep enough he told me, so that some other dog won't dig her up... luckily the ground wasn't frozen yet. He handed me her little beagle corpse and i crawled down into the hole and set her down. We debated whether we should have brought a blanket to wrap her in, but in the end we decided that it didn't matter really, and that this way she would go back to the earth as quickly as possible.
It was hard to start shoveling the dirt over her... she was still warm when i set her down, and i was worried she was still alive. I waited a minute, then shoveled on the dirt, i waited till i absolutely had to to bury her face. After a bit my dad took a turn shoveling, and after about 20 minutes or so, we had her buried well enough. My father said he'd go back later and cover the ground over and flatten it out with his tractor. I remember thinking over and over again, that it was a great thing to have people that would carry you down into the ground and shovel dirt onto your corpse in the middle of January.
Afterwords we stood there a moment, my dad and I agreed she was a good dog. We didn't stand there much longer, as it seemed then it would have been overly sentimental, besides, while we were burying her i had plenty of time to think fondly on her, and how it's this sort of tradition, physically laboring in the memory of someone, that allow for us to let go - i felt somewhat better.
Afterwards we went and got some lunch at the Swanton house of Pizza, we split a small works and talked about this and that. Dad told me this story about how only yesterday Bean, always wily in that hound dog way, found Ebony sleeping on her bed, and had devised a plan to get him off by going over to my dad and acting like he had food, begging and pawing at his leg - when Ebony jumped off the bed and rushed over, Bean had ambled over and reclaimed her spot.
We also talked about a plot of land he wanted to buy in Shawville, and how - my grandmother, on my mother's side, used to run this very restaurant, back in the 70's - only back then it was a diner, not a pizzeria, nothing else was really the same - it had been remodeled almost completely but that the trellis above our heads that spanned across the whole ceiling and which was wrapped through and through with all sorts of fast growing vines, was in fact build by my father and my great grandfather.