Our dog Bodger died suddenly two years ago today. He was 7. It is a difficult anniversary. I still miss him terribly. After he died we had him cremated and today he sits in a simple wooden box on our mantlepiece with his collar balanced on top. I like having him there.
The following is a true story.
Growing up we begged my parents for a dog. When I was 10 they finally caved and we got cockapoo (1/4 cocker spaniel, 3/4 poodle mix). We loved her! Yet every time the dog misbehaved my father, a biochemist at NIH, threatened to take her to work and that would be the end of her. Of course we lived in fear of this somewhat (but not really) idle threat.
Year's later, when our dog was quite old, our neighbors, the Brown's cat O.C. (short for "Outside Cat"), a large tortoise-shell cat was getting pretty old, her quality of life began to degrade. Mrs. Brown asked if my father could put her down. My father, being a straight-forward-no-nonsense-because-I-grew-up-in-Montana-where-there-are-no-such-things-as-pets-and-men-are-men kind of man, agreed to take the cat into work. Thanks to a heafty shot of potassium, O.C. went to a happier place where she could catch and eat songbirds to her heart's content.
A few months later the Brown's beloved cat "Smokey", a 17-year-old black and white indoor cat became quite ill. It was time to say goodbye. Too upset by the situation, Mrs. Brown sent her son Hampton over with Smokey and a black and white shoebox. As Hamp held Smokey, my father gave her the necessary injection and she went to sleep. Afterwards my father asked what the box was for? Hamp replied, "For the ashes." Off to NIH my father went with the body of Smokey as a tribute to the incinerator at work in the trunk of the car.
When he got home after work my mother asked him where the ashes were. My father said, "There are no ashes. Do you really think I was going to dig through the incinerator ash for some damn cat's remains?" My mother calmly replied, "Well, the Browns are expecting ashes." Without thinking twice, my father took the shoebox, went directly to the familyroom fireplace and started shoveling the remain's of the winter's last fire into the shoebox. When the box seemed heavy enough, he took a roll of packing tape and secured the box as thoroughly as possible. The Browns solemnly accepted the box later that evening and nothing more was ever said.
Sometimes, when I miss Bodger I shake his wooden box and hear the soft rattle of the ashes inside. Comforted by the sounds I wonder...