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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

We Buried Alex on Friday

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

We Buried Alex on Friday

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As I noted in my last post, we decided to bring Alex home and bury him in the yard. Bobby and I started digging the grave on Thursday. It was slow going because our soil is a mixture of clay and rock. Bobby picked, and I shoveled. We got about two feet down before the thunderstorm creeping up out of the west started throwing visible lightning, and we decided to call it a day.

Friday, we picked him up at the ER clinic. I was nervous. For one, I could not get out of my mind that a mistake might have been made with his body, and he might have been sent out accidentally for cremation. I ... have never liked the concept of cremation. I suppose it's one of those irrational things, like people who refuse to become organ donors because they're weirded out by the idea of their dead body missing a liver. But my spiritual beliefs being what they are, I also like to locate a loved one in the land that nurtured that person and to see that person in turn nurture the land. I don't want that energy, that potential literally burned away. I think of burial, as Whitman put it, that "The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, / And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d."

Alex is leading forth life.

I also wasn't sure what he would look like. After we checked in, we drove around back to the employee entrance while they prepared his body for transport. We had to double park, so I stayed in the car. A tech came out to talk to Bobby; I tried to read her lips and didn't see anything that looked like "cremation" or "mistake" or "sorry." It turns out that, willful until the very end, Alex refused to fit in the coffin box, so he had to be wrapped in his Ravens blanket and brought home that way.

When we unwrapped him at home, they had arranged his body so that he was curled into a ball like he was sleeping, with his back paws under his chin and his head on his paws. We put him on the couch, and it was like so many times we'd find him in that exact position, like this.

 photo 2015-04-03 09.45.50_zpsxr2nokbn.jpg

We did let Phil see him, and Phil sniffed him but didn't seem to find anything distressing or unusual. I do wonder how they perceive death. Phil clearly misses Alex: He is lost without Alex to take the lead in a lot of their activities, and he will sometimes catch the sound of Alex's name and will start wagging his tail. But he didn't seem upset by seeing Alex's body. Which maybe should tell us something? That all this stressing out over death is really overblown, that everyone but us gets that it is part of life (without meaning to sound like Forrest Gump's mother there) and that, as Whitman wrote, it does lead forward life?

We had a bit more digging to do. My father-in-law came over, and our friend Dawn as well, who used to babysit the wilds when we were out of town. We got the grave almost to the proper depth and then struck what I call the Old Mountains: solid rock. Very long ago, this mountain range was the tallest in the world. It has become humbled over time, and where we live now isn't even mountains anymore--to honor the dignity of the Old Mountains, I call them foothills--but the kinds of high hills that will wind you to climb on a bike and are unnoticed in a car. The last stage of digging was the slowest and the hardest. We had to break the rock to make way. We ended up with tools from three Manchester sheds: ours, Dawn's, and Neighbor Bob's. When the rocks of the Old Mountains broke, though, they were beautiful inside: streaked with pink and white and blue. Alex sleeps in a beautiful place. I like to think that the Old Mountains keep him.

Then it was time to bring him out.

We said our final goodbyes and wrapped him well in his Ravens blanket and Bobby carried him out. We had tucked his orange football under his ear, where he usually placed it in life because putting something under his ear was the only way to guarantee that Phil wouldn't take it.

 photo 100_3233-small_zpsyphjuxmn.jpg

We checked, and his football was still under his ear. Bobby placed him in his grave. We buried him with one of the Big Pinks, his halter and leash, a can of Xanderfood (wet food), a handful of kibble, photos of us and Phil and all his family members, letters from Bobby and me, and the traditional coins to pay his fare in the underworld.

We covered him back with earth and made a border around his grave with the many stones we'd taken out of the ground and started a cairn on top, just like a Noldorin king. It was the most at peace I'd felt all week. He's home. I imagine him down there, just like he is sleeping, with his football under his ear.

Friday night, we went to Erin's house for a party to reconnect with some family we hadn't seen in a while. When we returned, we took a beach towel out into the yard and poured some Scotch: a glass each for Bobby and me and a small bowl for Alex. Alex loved any kind of alcohol. Most dogs like beer, and he also liked wine; when we found out our offer had been accepted on the house, we celebrated with a glass of rum for Bobby, a glass of red wine for me, and a bowl of red wine for Alex. But Scotch? We were at the firepit one night, and I was drinking Scotch. Alex came over, and I offered him some. He took a lick and pulled back, like, "WTF, Mommy?!" Then you could almost see him mulling it over, and he came back for more. Bobby and I, of course, thought that was brilliant; our dog would drink Scotch! After that, whenever one of us would drink Scotch, he'd always be right there, and we'd always dip the tip of a finger into it and let him have a little.

It was a beautiful, clear night without a scrap of cloud or haze in the sky. The Milky Way was visible, and we saw multiple shooting stars. Cassiopeia rose over the wild tree growing along the street, and when we finally went in for the night, I saw through the tree my favorite star, Capella, rising for the first time this year, flashing crimson and blue on the horizon.

It is not easy but each day does get a little easier. I have managed to laugh and talk/think about things that aren't Alex and even dance a little. I still haven't spoken to my imaginary friends, so there's like this vast silence, and I cut off my fingernails (normally very long and hard, like claws, and a source of pride since they and my double-jointed thumbs were the only things my peers admired me for when I was a kid) to remind myself that it is a time for grief and hurt, and that is okay. I am still just struck like a punch in the gut sometimes that he's really gone. A month ago, we hadn't a clue that there was anything wrong with him. It happened so fast that it beggars belief. And little things sneak up on me sometimes, like when I asked Bobby if he'd bought "them" more food and realizing it wasn't "them" anymore.

A lot of people have asked about Phil. Alex was a big brother to Phil, through and through. Alex took the lead in everything. Phil asks constantly to have the ball thrown, but otherwise, he hasn't quite figured out how to play without Alex for the simple reason that Alex--always so full of energy and not wont to stay still for long--always took the lead. You'd see Alex go off exploring in the yard or barking at someone through the fence, and there'd be Phil, right on his heels. Phil hasn't figured out how to do those things yet on his own, so when he's not chasing the ball, he mostly lays in the yard or on the floor in the house. We've been encouraging him to do things like run and bark, and hopefully he'll get it figured out.

Thank you to everyone who has left comments or sent messages. It's been a rough week, but your kind words and thoughts have helped. I'm so far behind I think I'm in first right now, so I don't know that I'm going to get to reply to everyone who has been so kind to me, at least not right away. Please know it isn't for lack of appreciation.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • We covered him back with earth and made a border around his grave with the many stones we'd taken out of the ground and started a cairn on top, just like a Noldorin king.

    Of course, I love that.

    Take it easy. Don't push yourself too hard!
    • Our long-term plan is to bring a rock back whenever we travel--and some sand from OC and Assateague too, of course--and add them to his grave. He was our travel companion and went so many places with us. In that way, we'll feel like he's still there.

      Of course, typical for me, I am working my ass off today, getting caught up on all the fannish stuff I've neglected during the week, so that I can have my week off free to write the JTR paper ... ;)
      • Good luck with that, sweetie. Damn. You are so disciplined. I think I'll take a nap and puzzle on why I am not!
        • Lol. :D

          I have been beyond undisciplined all week. I am behind in everything, to the point that I am thinking of emailing my director to see if I can come into work one day next week because I don't see how I'm going to get my classroom ready otherwise. So it's kind of a necessity at this point, but I'm actually glad for it. I am not helped by staying idle. (When I had my major depressive episode, my favorite thing to do was go to work--I was a kitchen manager at the time, so it was hot, physically strenuous work--because it was the only time I felt close to normal.)
          • Just replying to say that I totally empathize with this. Immersing yourself in something (particularly if it's a relatively healthy something) can sometimes be the best way to keep those feelings with you--without them being *everything* that's with you.
  • I'm still very sad for you (and, selfishly, for myself - all of this reminds me of my Emilie's death, we had to have her put her down because of cancer as well), but this was a beautiful write-up that leaves no doubt how loved Alex was and still is. *more hugs*
  • This just feels so right:

    so he had to be wrapped in his Ravens blanket and brought home that way

    What a beautiful way to make Alex's life for now full circle and he's home.

    Don't worry about e-mail, I am woefully behind too. So much is happening here. *hugs*

  • What a beautiful way to see Alex off. We did the same with our dogs years ago...buried them in our back garden(s). We had moved when the second one passed away so they are buried in two different places. :(

    When our cat Rusty passed a couple of years ago we left her body with the veterinarian, though. I'd had enough of burying our pets in so many different places.

    There was so much to do anyway, Dawn. It's been a very busy month. Please don't stress yourself trying to answer everything. *hugs*
  • It sounds like a wonderful place. Take care.

  • Dawn, I was so sorry to see this. Last time I was on LJ he had taken a turn for the better and I was hopeful. It's so hard to lose someone so close and so loving. You might think you were lucky to have him in your life but he was extremely lucky to have you. How many dogs, how many people, get that kind of love?

    My best to you and Bobby at this difficult time.
  • It's so good that you could bury him in a place that's permanently yours. Even though he's gone, you will be able to remember him physically with your ongoing cairn.

    Be well; take care of yourselves and Phil.
  • You gave Alex a beautiful send off. I'm sure he will always be with you in spirit, we used to sense our old cat around.Hugs.
  • That's a beautiful and fitting goodbye. *hugs*
  • I love the fact that you shared some Scotch with him at his gravesite. It's very similar to the way we sent our Pookah to her rest after we buried her.

    I found your thoughts on burial vs cremation interesting. I've always been a proponent of cremation, although my pets have been buried deeply in our yard. But I think, having actually thought about the positives and negatives of burial vs cremation often over the past years, that I have a deep set fear and claustrophobia. Even the simple thought of being in a coffin covered by soil above me causes me to almost panic, although realistically, I would be dead and wouldn't really care one way or the other. Also, cremation would allow me to be scattered many places - my beloved mountains, the deserts of my adult live, and the waters of my current home - all places I've adored and areas of deep spirituality for me.

    I'm delighted that you are starting to heal and step back slightly from that deep grief that first hits when losing someone/something so central to your life. You'll never forget, but you'll have the memories come without the accompanying ache and sting they currently might have.

    *hugs* to all of you!

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • Benito reacted the same way when Jabon passed. We tried not to leave him alone if we could help it because we realized that he had never been by himself without his older brother. A few weeks later, my neighbour (not the nicest lady) came to ask me what had happened to him because she had heard him cry so sadly she thought he was in pain. Yes, he was!

    I have Ramses (our first cat) buried in my very small garden but we couldn't bury Jabon there so I had him cremated so we could bury his ashes under the tree he loved. I love the cairn idea!
  • You broke my heart with this. I'm so sorry for your loss.
  • *hugs* Please take care, Dawn, and thank you for keeping us updated.
  • Take care, Dawn. *hugs*
  • ((((Dawn and Bobby))))
  • Living in a rental house as we do we had Sally cremated. They scatter the ashes in the rose garden so Sally and Muffy are together now.

    We held her and said out goodbyes - wrapped her in a towel - I kissed her tummy which was still so soft...

    We still miss her. I had this drawn digitally but haven't had the money to print & frame it yet.

     photo sally3ToddSMALL_zpsy9cdp0xq.jpg
    I'm so sorry about Alex, Dawn... Losing our pets is just heartbreaking... *Hugs*
  • I'm so sorry about Alex. I didn't know he'd died. Your description of his burial was really touching. Hugs.
  • This was an emotional read. Alex is at peace.

  • Sending as much love as I can to you, Dawn *big hugs*
  • I'm so sorry about Alex, Dawn--it sounds like you gave him the best send-off he could have wished for.
  • I'm so sorry to hear you lost Alex. What a lovely send off you gave him!
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