I helped my friend Sheila put to rest her two little dog companions, Scruffy and Buddy, last Wednesday. We buried them beside the walking path around our pasture, a place they liked to visit and explore.
That same pasture is also the final resting place of my black mare, Samba, Caramel the dog, and Perla’s father, Daddy Cat. The pasture butts up against our yard where all the other animals that shared their lives with our family are tucked away. Like Pedro Jesus (We Buried Pedro Jesus Today, November 21, 2009), and Kitty (Three Funerals and the Fourth of July, July 5, 2011), they are all buried somewhere in the yard that was their favorite place, too. Maybe it makes no difference to them, but it makes a difference to me, and it helps in a small way to deal with losing them.
We have always buried our pets. We have lost a few cats to cars on the roads, and I would never just leave their little bodies there to be mutilated again and again or to have to drive by and see the results. I always feel sorry for those animals who have no one to care enough about them to pick them up after an accident, or in the case of strays, that no one cared enough to give them a home in the first place and left them there to die. When one has to be put down at the vet’s office, we always bring them home. After sharing 33 years with her, I could never have allowed the used cow dealer to haul off Samba’s body from the pasture. She deserved better.
But they are just animals, you say.
On the contrary, like the Velveteen Rabbit, when they are loved, really loved, they become real, like a person. When Samba and I would return from an all day ride and my mother would inquire about our day, she noticed that I would always tell her that we had a good time or an interesting day or whatever. It wasn’t just me; we were on an adventure as friends. I never thought about it any other way. I have enjoyed our dogs going with Samba and me on the horseback rides, cats helping me type all kinds of things on the computer, cats and dogs helping me with the gardening, exercising, keeping me warm as we’re sleeping, watching TV, sitting on the patio watching the world go by, just being there. They are masters at unconditional love and were always there for me.
When my animals die, I tell them good-bye in a letter, as I mentioned in the aforementioned blogs. It gives me a chance to let them know one last time how important they were to me and how they enriched my life. I put the letter in a sealed plastic bag along with their picture and bury it with them. Sheila wrote a letter to her boys, and she said it helped. This letter or journal writing also helps with the loss of a person, too. You should, of course, be telling those people every day how much they mean to you. But then, you already knew that.
Now, in a hundred years or a thousand years when some archaeologist excavates this site, they will know that those little velveteen animals were special and were loved.
So when I die, I have faith that I will be greeted not only by my God and my human family members and friends, but also my cats and dogs and horse will be there to help me do whatever it is I am assigned to do in Heaven. How could it be Heaven without my animals there, too?