My Nan's birthday was this past Wednesday. She turned 79! Wow! And if she lives to be as old as her mother, she still has another 20 years to go!
The family got together with her for dinner at the "Sunset Cafe" in Trout River. My battered cod was yummy! And then we headed to Nan's house for cake with lots of candles.
When we first arrived at the house, my Aunt Marilyn was outside calling for Pal, their little black dog, to come back inside. He doesn't usually go out of the yard and comes right back to the house if called. This time, Pal didn't show up.
We went in to sing Happy Birthday and cut the cake. Nan was having her picture taken with the little grandkids, who loved helping blow out the candles, and telling us how her mother always said you shouldn't blow out candles because of the germs it spread over the icing. Good point. Doesn't make for nearly as fun an experience. But still, good point.
A knock came on the door. It's strange to hear a knock on Nan's door. People normally just come right on in. Nan's house is a tiny little place where you can literally see who's at the front door from every room in the house except the back bedroom and bathroom. Ti-Ny!
Ryan answered the door.
The voice said, "You guys own a dog?"
"Ah,..." Hesitation seems the automatic response when you don't want to know what follows your reply if you answer with a "Yes".
"Cause a dog just got hit by a car on the road."
Aunt Marilyn immediately jumped up, "Oh me dog!"
And if you know Trout River, you know she did in fact say "ME dog" and not MY dog.
Of course I immediately jumped up and ran out to the road with Aunt Marilyn and Ryan trailing behind. There, laying motionless on the side of the road, was Pal. Not a move, not even a nerve twitch. I felt for a pulse. Nothing. I told Aunt Marilyn he was gone. Melanie, Aunt Marilyn's daughter, totally broke down. Ryan got pissed at the driver of the car. I simply picked Pal up in my arms, still warm, expressed my thanks to the driver of the car for coming back to the scene, and walked to the house.
I sat on the porch with Pal in my arms, my hand tucked under his left paw, just hoping to feel his heart start again. He just looked like he was sleeping with not a mark anywhere. No blood. No sign of trauma. Melanie was completely distraught and Nan exclaimed, "How will I ever be able to stay home by myself now?!" There's little comfort in explaining that he died instantly, the impact having broken his neck. No, there's not much comfort in that at all when a loved one dies suddenly, even if that loved one is the family dog.
Dad stayed with me while I held onto Pal. Ryan went to look for a shovel. Aunt Marilyn got a fluffy towel to wrap Pal in. Sadly, we would have to bury the family doggy this night. I suggested Melanie take a picture. Morbid? Perhaps.
We sat there like that, crying, wondering why he ran away when it was so out of character for him, saying all the good things about him in past tense --- "...such a nice dog.", "...never peed on the floor once.", "...always came when he was called.", "...was such good company for Nan."
Finally, after about a half hour, the inevitable. We walked to the backyard and with the help of a flashlight, found a nice spot under a tree to dig the grave. 9 of us gathered around. Nine.
Dad used the shovel to peel back the grassy sod, trying to keep it in tact, so as to place it back on top to look more presentable. I wrapped Pal tightly in his casket made from a fluffy white bath towel. Behind me, Melanie choked a sob when I covered his face, picked him up, and laid him down in the dark hole that would be his final resting place.
Dad spoke of how lucky we were to be able to stand around in our backyard to pay respects to a family pet. "There are people in the world, " he said, "who will never have the priveledge of a loving family or a decent burial."
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We carefully laid the sods back in place. Aunt Marilyn would find something to mark the grave the following day. We walked back inside. We ate cake and spoke of how the crumbs would no longer be so hastily licked from the floor.
While I washed my hands, I looked down and held out the front of my white shirt. A final memory - I was covered in black fur.