Sunday, December 4, 2011
Rite of Winter
I have been reading Jon Katz's new book, "Coming Home, Finding Peace when Pets Die." I don't agree with everything he says, but the vast majority touches on the kind of decisions and loss and grieving that come with DM. It would be a good book to read before losing a dog, or while trying to make the decision to let him go, or after.
About the time I started reading the book, Woody's owner took his ashes to his favorite spot and scattered them. I thought about Merlin's ashes. I had left for California soon after he was euthanized and my mother had picked them up at the vet's office. Sometime this past summer I collected them from her shelf and brought them home. They were in a small cardboard box, taped closed. Too small. I put them on the shelf where I also have Luka's urn and a plastic box with Teddy's remains. The rest of my dogs are back in Fresno.
I have a plan to have their ashes combined with mine and scattered after my death, and have been looking for a large, unbreakable urn to keep them in. The other day it occurred to me that a new paint can would work, and I bought one.
I wanted to scatter some of Merlin's ashes in a special place, and I chose the ADA trail where we took our last walk together. It wasn't Merlin's favorite spot, but it was the one place that was just his and mine. The last time we were there I pushed him in the stroller. It was the first day he was sick, late December. None of the other dogs had been there, and I had not been able to go back this summer or fall, though I thought about it each time I drove past the turnoff.
I waited for a sunny day, which, in the winter in Washington, was a long wait. We had a high sitting over the state but the days were cloudy and foggy and cold. But today we woke to clear skies and sun.
I decided to take Oliver. Just as I always felt that Mandy, my first heart dog and first dog as an adult, sent Merlin to me, I feel that Merlin had a role in Oliver's arrival. I knew his owner because of this blog, for one thing. And if I needed another sign, it came when another friend named her red brindle Cardigan Merlin. Oliver, I knew, was a red brindle Cardigan. And Oliver had been DNA tested and was DM-clear.
So it was appropriate for Oliver to be the one who first shared Merlin's spot with me. We drove there; it is only about five minutes from my cabin. I left Oliver in the car and started off. As soon as I began to walk I started to cry. I walked up the trail to a bend where the light was streaming in through the trees. There I opened the box, finding a nice metal urn inside. I unscrewed the lid and tore open the plastic bag, and with my hand, scattered ashes to the light breeze. Not all of them, just some. And then I said "Goodbye, Merlin. I loved you so much and I will always love you."
I returned to the car and got Oliver out and into his cart, and we walked the ADA loop together. No one else was around, so I let Oliver off leash to run. I knew he didn't need an ADA trail but I wanted to share it with another dog, and he was the right one. He raced happily down the trail until, near where I had scattered the ashes, I put him back on the leash, and we walked back to the car.