Googling Someone to Exhume my Dog

(originally published on Open Salon in 2010)

Many years ago in the back yard of the first home I owned, near an old cherry tree, I buried my dog. The spot is marked only by a small chunk of stone.

This past fall our family purchased a beautiful, big, and old crooked home with the space we desperately needed near our children’s school. This month we are painting and readying the small bungalow where we previously lived for sale. Once I sell my little starter house, I will have to say goodbye forever to the bones buried deep underneath the yard.

Googling someone to exhume a body can retrieve really strange results:

Google:

Disinter +dog +bones

+exhume +pet +cemetery

+“Dig Up My Dead Dog”

A projectile and compact ball of energy, Lucky Dog came into my life the very week I graduated from college. My first glimpse was as he scrambled out of the back of a luxury SUV, on a long zip style leash, choking himself while pulling hard against a clearly overwhelmed woman in her 40s.

I’ve owned him for two years, Expensive SUV Woman sighed with huge fatigue, but he has far too much energy and I simply can’t handle him. She further described him as a VERY naughty fox terrier for whom she had paid an incredibly large sum of money to a reputable breeder. He would sometimes climb up and stand on the dinner table and help himself! He was incorrigible. He drank coffee out of your cup if you left it unattended for even seconds.

In fact, she pointed out, Lucky was quite possibly not redeemable. The next step was the dog pound and euthanasia if she couldn’t find someone to take him off her hands.

Lucky and I hit it off immediately.

Very early on, I could see that he desperately wanted to be a good dog but evidently couldn’t quite bring himself all the way. I purchased dog treats and we began working on commands. I realized that he was a scarily smart dog. He could learn things almost instantly, sometimes with only one repetition: Sit. Shake. Lay down. Stay.

I also learned that whether he would choose to obey or not was far less predictable.

I recall several times coming home in those early years to find Lucky Dog had eaten entire loaves of bread. He would carefully pick the plastic tab off of the loaf, and open the end of the package to pull slices of organic, artisan-style bread out one by one, leaving an empty sleeve.

One Halloween Lucky Dog ate a pound bag of chocolates. He meticulously picked each “Fun Size” bar at a time from the bag, leaving hundreds of brightly colored wrappers around the living room. I rushed him to the veterinarian, fearful of chocolate poisoning. While there, I phoned to get the carpet in my new rental house shampooed.

Wait. Didn’t I actually leave that bag of candy on the top of the refrigerator? I’m sure I did.

At night, Lucky Dog slept curled behind my knees. I slept with the feeling of his warm, furry body leaned against me. If there was a bump in the night, he barked like a maniac and huffed around the room for a few passes before climbing back into bed. I felt safe.

In the morning, Lucky’s toenails clicked annoyingly as he followed behind me from room to room while I readied myself for the day. My social guideline in those years was: If it doesn’t include my dog, I’m not much interested.

Lucky Dog was my constant companion.

I was in my early 30s when my dog became sick. Playing on the floor with my toddler, I noticed as Lucky walked toward us, a strange lump on his leg. He was limping slightly.

I drove him to our local veterinarian on a drizzly, grey, morning right around Easter. It was the type of day that passes for “spring” in the Pacific Northwest. I expected to hear that he had a bad sprain and I pondered the difficult prospect of keeping him immobilized. He was nearing ten years old but still was not kept down easily.

Late that afternoon, I stood next to the veterinarian and held a squiggly one year old while trying to make out a blurry, dime-sized spot on an X-ray. You need to see a specialist. Nowadays people use chemotherapy. We can give you the name of a good veterinary oncologist.

My brother recommended to me a veterinarian in Canada and accompanied me on the three hour drive north to Surrey, BC on a May afternoon. It was a drive I would make many times the following year. Dr. Douglas was a kind, competent man and his style was a good fit with me. The cost to have my dog treated in Canada was reasonable enough for a family with a new baby and a new mortgage to afford.

Dogs are not humans, Dr. Douglas reminded me as I wiped my tears and signed a perverse stack of forms authorizing him to amputate my dog’s small, muscular, back leg. Lucky has a very strong life drive and he will bounce right back. He will be able to hop off and on the couch, and he will not notice a rear leg is missing.

I read anything I could find on canine cancer. I hand cooked all of his food adhering to a strict cancer diet and I drove to Canada regularly to get his pain killers and the necessary medicines.

Instead of the predicted two to nine months, Lucky Dog lived over two years past the cancer surgery.

My dog died at home on a hot, sunny, weekend in August. I knew he was close to the end and I was having difficulty controlling his pain with the medication. He was so slow, and labored to walk or breathe. The day before he died I baked my grandma’s peach cobbler for our family reunion. Lucky Dog hoisted himself up on three legs and shuffled after me to the pantry and flopped down. Then, he hoisted himself up and followed me back to the kitchen.

After he died I held his little body in my arms and cried for a very long time before I was able to put him into the ground. His fur was still very soft and his body did not feel cold. He had the same Lucky Dog smell and his little feet were the same. I remember thinking about how many thousands of tiny steps those feet took beside me.

I wrapped him in his favorite cotton blanket and buried him in the back yard of our tiny little bungalow, deep into the clay earth, with his favorite toys. I watched the dark, wet clods of dirt fall onto his small body until I could no longer see the brown and white fur. That first night I lay in bed crying and thinking about his body outside in the dark and the cold.

That was eight Augusts ago and much has changed in my life. I have loved other dogs since Lucky. And, I have survived other types of grief.

We currently have a sweet little terrier that my children chose from a local shelter.

But…I do not know if I will ever love a dog the same way I loved Lucky. And lately, I am unable to sleep for thinking about abandoning my dog. I am weighed down with thoughts of macabre, I Love Lucy style escapades to return for his body if I don’t take it with me.

Google:

+Moving +Pet +Body

Burial +corpse +bones +dog

Last weekend my husband found me crying once again about this topic and offered to exhume the dog. “I love you. I don’t want you to be so upset. It’s an easy thing for me to do. I’ll dig up what is left of him and we can have his remains cremated and take him with us, or spread his somewhere he loved to be.”

A friend gently suggested instead of exhumation, I take a small bucket of dirt from his burial area in the back yard, before my house goes up for sale, and perhaps use the dirt to nourish a flower garden in my new house.

Google:

+“How long does it take for flesh to decompose in the ground?”

I am not sure what I will do with Lucky Dog’s body. Lately, he has visited me in my dreams, young and healthy and in some kind of trouble.

Intellectually I understand he is gone, regardless of where his bones are kept. But, my heart didn’t get that email.

LuckyDog, at Washington Stonehenge

Baker, Writer, Mother of 2, Seattleite. Taking back food from The Man one pickled vegetable at a time.