Friday, December 04, 2009

Things to Do in Albuquerque When You’re a Dead Dog

The fundamental problem with stories about dogs is that so often they end, tearfully, with the subject dog expiring in an excruciating death scene. That won't be the case with this story. In fact, this story begins with the dog, in this case, Lyric, already dead, having passed away peacefully in her sleep at the ripe old age of 15. Adore her as I did, this story isn't about Lyric, per se, but about her earthly remains and their disposition.

Personally, I believe almost all of the rituals and traditions associated with death are insane. Of course, the remembrance of deceased loved ones sustains us, but the physical remains are just that, remains, of someone who once was, but who now exists only in our memory. If anything, it seems to me, ritualistic display, handling and disposal of the corpse of either dog or human is an affront to who they were before they became a corpse. Every dog or cat we had who died after Lyric was disposed of in the county dog hole, and I think that's as it should be.

The county dog hole is just that, a big pit for dead dogs and cats. I suppose it has a real name, but I like to think of it as the dog hole. It's loaded with corpses, then lime is poured, then it's loaded with corpses again. Lather, rinse, repeat, until you need to finally dig a new, or deeper, dog hole. Thinking about it, dogs and cats aren't lonely and scared in the dog hole, and they're with their own kind. If they insist on being dead, I frankly can't think of a better place for them to be than the dog hole. If there were something like a dog hole for people, I'd sign up, right away. Karen felt just as I did, and after her death we donated her remains to the New Mexico Museum of Anthropology. But when Lyric died, we were far less callow, and felt certain things needed to be done to the remains. So we tried to do them.

Before I get to Lyric's bodily remains, let me discuss her hair. Lyric was a long-haired German shepherd, and Karen brushed her thoroughly for the twelve years she was ours. During that time, she saved all of Lyric's hair, in white kitchen garbage bags. When we moved, we'd move the bags of hair with us. By the time Lyric died, we had more than thirty.

I will argue that Karen was not clinically insane. She actually had a reason for keeping Lyric's hair. Granted, it was a half-baked and ultimately stupid reason, but it was a reason, nonetheless. From the time she met Lyric, Karen had the fantasy of saving Lyric's hair, and one day having it spun into yarn and made into a sweater. It wasn't until after Lyric's death that Karen bothered to look into the feasibility of this plan. 

Karen consulted artisans, and learned this. You can make things out of dog hair, but you probably shouldn't. There's a reason we don't make things out of discarded pet hair. Apparently, anything made of the collected hair of Lyric would not only be hideous and overly fragile, but would also stink of wet dog all the time. Ultimately, the thirty-plus garbage bags of hair went to the dump.

Then there was the matter of Lyric's bodily remains. Naturally, we'd meet Lyric's spirit again at the Rainbow Bridge, but Karen was crystal clear as to what she wanted done with her body. She wanted Lyric cremated, and wanted to sprinkle the remains at a particular location in the Sandia foothills that Lyric had loved. It was a location we always imaginatively referred to as "the place." It was just a bit off a path, with a small stream, and it was pristine, and rugged and magnificent. It's where we wanted to let Lyric's soul fly free.

We hiked to the place, and I carried Lyric's remains in a canister that resembled an extra-large coffee can. My big girl felt so light in that can.

Once at the place, we sent our last earthly love to Lyric, and prepared to sprinkle her dust to the New Mexico winds, where it would be lifted and flown far and wide, so all of the Sandia mountains, indeed, all of the American west, would be imbued with Lyric's sweet essence. I don't remember, but I'm sure some beautiful words were said. Then I opened the canister so Karen and I could toss the fairy dust into which our girl had been transformed into the breeze.

What was in the can was not at all what we expected. It was black, and rocky, and had recognizable chunks of charred dog in it. Somehow, this relatively small can held a massive amount of matter, and though the can had felt light, the "cremains" were dense. There was going to be no letting Lyric float away in the wind. As we each tossed the first handfuls of her into the air, the charred mass dropped straight to the ground, as if it were iron filings and the earth were a giant magnet.

We were near the small, babbling, creek. We had imagined many of her remains would persist near the creek she had loved and romped through. What we didn't expect is that by the time the third and fourth handfuls of the black matter had been removed from the can, the stuff would begin to, literally, dam the creek. What had been intended as the liberation of a sweet, beloved, soul, had suddenly turned into an illegal biohazardous dumping with serious environmental implications.

We still had half a can of Lyric left. We dumped it into some foliage, and got out of the place, before some park ranger came up and arrested us for despoiling the foothills.

We laughed then, and I laugh now, remembering this. What was in that canister was no more Lyric than the bags of hair were a sweater, or what's in some drawers in a museum in Albuquerque is Karen, or whatever's buried in the cemetery is your grandmother. Whatever happened to the black sludge damming the creek that day, my Lyric will always be beautiful, always happy, and always on the arm of her Mom.

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands


Leigh said...

Sad and funny all at the same time!

Anny said...

i enjoy reading all your stories.. and Lyric is beautiful.

Kim said...

Great story! I don't know whether to laugh or cry. That's what makes your writing so good. "Half a can of Lyric left." LOL

tashabud said...

I must tell you that you got me chuckling reading this poignant post. Such a lovely read. I could picture everythig si vividly.

Thanks for the laughter. You made my day.

Jaya said...

Dear Rich,

Your blog not is of poor workmanship, as proof is of spamu Japanese:

あなたのブログのための日本のスパムのコメントはここにある。 猫は私の頭部にもどって来る。



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