I've officiated at any number of funerals for pets. I never cease to be amazed. There is a ritual that dogs know. All dogs. The largest dog funeral I officiated had twenty dogs in attendance. My dog, Mongo, had to be put down. She was a fifteen year old lab mix with severe arthritis who had suddenly lost her sight. She had to do stairs and couldn't manage it without eyes, unless I carried her. I couldn't spend every minute with her and she didn't want to be where I wasn't.
She spent a lot of time at one particular farm. There were ten dogs that lived there full time. Another five to ten dogs were frequent farm visitors. They all came to say goodbye to Mongo. We brought her home from the vet's office. From the truck, she rode the wheel barrow to the little cemetery. Someone brought a little yard angel to sit beside her. I had dug the hole earlier. Mongo had sat beside me while I worked, content to be near me. There was a half of a chocolate cake left over from the weekend, so I fed it to her. She loved chocolate, and stole it whenever she could. She had to have known something was up when I gave it to her.
Friends came over to help me, and to comfort us both. I took a break. Mongo took a nap. In the hole. Any concerns I had over whether or not it was a good fit were at least dispelled. It took tugging, pulling, laughter and tears, and a pack of hot dogs to get her out of her grave and into the car and off to the vet. Talk about ironic.
When we came home, the dogs were sitting quietly in the yard, waiting for us. We loaded her into the wheel barrow and they followed behind me as I took her to the grave. There they watched while I placed her gently in the ground. They looked at me, as though they fully expected me to say something. So I did. I talked about the joy she gave me, the weird way she barked at airplanes, her love of forbidden chocolate. I said a little prayer. Then, one by one, each dog walked by the grave, nudged her, sniffed, went back and sat down. I covered her up, gently put the rocks around the space to mark it as hers. When I was done, Jake leaned his head back and let out a long, loud howl. Those inclined to do so joined in. Then, they took off running full speed up the mountain.
Emmy has been sick a long time, but had an attitude and enjoyment of life that belied her diagnosis. This week, though, she quit eating. Dogs have their ways of telling us when it's time to move on. Mongo didn't like being blind and I knew what she wanted - napping in her grave was only the last clue. Emmy loved to eat. She would eat everything. She could eat more than Webster who is four times her size. When she quit eating, I knew. I think, too, she didn't want Donna to see her that way, but to remember her royal demeanor. Donna knew, and we had talked about it, but it wasn't obvious when Donna left on a trip. It was obvious later. Donna knew I wouldn't let her, or any dog, suffer needlessly. She didn't give me the job, but I offered to take it on if it became necessary. She trusted me to know when that might be.
Abbey, Savannah and Webster came today and watched as I put Emmy in her own little grave. I planted an azalea with her. They each walked over to Emmy, sniffed her, nudged her, then sat respectfully and watched as I finished the work. I said some words, about how much she loved Jean, loved to eat, would push Webster away from his dish and polish off his dinner, push him off his bed to nap there, prance past the other dogs languishing in the ninety degree heat to go loll about in the air conditioning inside. Then I said a prayer. On cue, Webster leaned his head back and let out a long, loud howl. Abbey and and Savannah joined him. Goodbye Miss Em.