Guardian of the Garden

September 19, 2016 at 2:22 pm (Sweet sticky things, That's not funny..., Waxing Nostalgic)


A celebration of life was held in our backyard this morning. It was attended by Sister and I, as well as animal representatives Luna and Django. Luna, the ADHD-addled teenager, was all over the place, not understanding what was going on but having a great time helping. “We’re digging holes in the back yard?” Luna loves the dirt, and she loves rootballs that resemble human hearts. With her all-black coloring and demon-eyes, watching her rip and tear makes me proud, and a bit nervous.

I would use a three-pronged prospector’s pick to loosen the clay, until Luna would get nosy. Then I’d shovel some dirt out, toss an empty plastic bottle across the yard and shovel some more, before Luna would come dashing back to the top of the dirt-pile, knocking a bunch of dirt back into the hole. At one point I would pick with my left hand while she attacked the shovel in my right. Some days this might make me cranky and impatient, but today I was enjoying her insolent distractions.

The time had come to bury Sandy.

We’ve known the end has been coming. She’s not been the same since her last bout of doggie-flu. She has been deteriorating rapidly, and the past week she’s been unable to move from the hallway. She curled up in front of our doors, unable to walk, unable to eat, barely able to drink water. My sister would hold her head to the water bowl, but would have to pull her back out for fear she would drown. She couldn’t stand up, let alone go outside, so my sister would mop her messes as they happened. It was not a graceful goodbye.

Her heart was in it to the end. She would acknowledge Luna’s playful attempts, and tolerate way more teeth and claws than I would in her condition. And if someone came onto the driveway, she would bark, even though she could no longer do anything about it. “I’m just sayin’, get your NEW LITTLE DOG to do your guarding!” She seemed wistful in her doggie way.

When I came out of my room this morning, the hallway was eerily empty. I was used to Sandy laying at the foot of everyone’s door, and now the spot where she laid had been scrubbed clean. I knew she hadn’t miraculously gotten up and wandered into the living room. I caught Sister’s eye. “Sandy gone?”

“As far as the driveway, anyway. She was a mess, but I got her that far.”

“Well, point me to where you want the hole, and I’ll start digging. No reason this should all be on you.”

“It usually is. Thanks.” She’s right; she usually gets all the gross, bloody jobs.

There’s an old joke about who would you call if you had to hide a body? I didn’t want Sis to have to make any phone calls, and I felt a need to help with this burial. Sandy was a lot more my dog than most of the pets we’ve had. (She would defer to my Alpha male status in a most ego-gratifying way.) I felt compelled to see the old girl out, and digging holes in the backyard is good exercise.

luna-shovelI dug and I chopped and I chopped and I dug. Luna kept sticking her nose into my business, and after a bit Sister came out. We tag-teamed and soon we had a sizable pile of dirt and a square hole halfway deep enough for a human grave. Are you paying attention, neighbors?

Django poked his head over the fence, giving puppy something to chase. He’s spry for an old cat, and has a nasty left hook. We didn’t want either of them getting hurt, but we can’t babysit them forever, so I kinda let nature take its course. Django got some exercise running through blackberry bushes, and Luna is learning to dodge a one-two kitty-punch.

Alpha Pussy

Alpha Pussy

Luna realized something was up when we coaxed her into the house, but wouldn’t let her back out. One thing we didn’t need was a nosy puppy interrupting the moving of the body. I can visualize her quizzical expression, trying to understand why we’re planting her mentor…

Django moved from the chair to the table, for a better view. It was time for the burial procession, and he didn’t want to miss a thing. Like going to hockey games for the fights, or auto races for the car crashes, don’t we really go to funerals so we can watch the body fall out of the casket?

Sister had put Sandy into a garbage bag, and placed it on top of a flattened cardboard box. We discussed logistics. Sis had factored rigor mortis into her hole-digging. I pointed out that rigor relaxes after a certain point. Not used to processing critter carcasses, we figured we would find out one way or another.

Sis got Sandy across the yard, and we stopped by the grave for a thoughtful moment. We’d decided not to bury her in the bag, as we wanted nature to hurry her along in the most efficient way. She was wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh denim jacket, and looked like she was curled up asleep. I took the rake and began dragging dirt over her, when Sister came from the house. “One more thing! She raised holy hell with the puppy over this goddamn squeaky toy, so she’s taking it with her. Squeaker doesn’t work anymore anyway. Maybe it’ll work on the other side…” She tucked it next to her paw, and that’s when the dam began to burst. I managed to get into my room before “my allergies acted up.”

Luna is realizing Sandy is gone, and that she is now queen bee. I tell her “Yes, you IS the lady-bitch…” as she rassles me for a piece of dirt-encrusted root. She calms when I tell her to, and for that I am thankful, because she can be quite ferocious when in psycho-puppy mode. I hope her cool demeanor holds up as she ages. I want her to keep her spirit, but I don’t want her to be dangerous.

Unless dangerous is called for.

So today Luna assumes control of the ship. She’s going to need a few more peace conferences of the less-aggressive variety with Django. (They did reach out to each other during the funeral, albeit claws extended, ala Tony Soprano and Johnny Sack.) Sandy was kinda like Django’s interspecies mistress, so it was only proper that he made a graveside appearance.

"You rang?"

“You rang?”

Luna went over and looked, wondering what happened to the big hole we just dug? Then she noticed something move in the blackberry bushes, and had to go digging. Previous hole? What previous hole?

Django got tired of being on alert every time the puppy did a lap, so he moseyed over and leapt atop the six-foot-tall fence. After surveying the yard, he smirked at the puppy as if to say, “Yup, got me a new bitch to break in…”

And the puppy looks back, saying, “I may be a girl, but I’m a boxer. Two words, motherfucker: Laila Ali.”

As the spirit of Sandy looks on from the garden.

It took a couple hours to dig the hole, and about five minutes to cover her up. We packed the ground down tightly, and marked her spot with a large flat rock. We pulled a clump of blackberry branches over the spot, to discourage any kind of traffic. That part of the yard will just have to look messy until spring. Sandy only went outside to the back yard for business purposes, so it seems proper that she’s there. She’s out back where we sit to barbecue, read and stargaze. We will always feel her spiritual presence, but I’m still anticipating her physical presence. Every time I step I look first, out of habit. Her black fur blended well with the darkness of the nighttime hallway.


The yellow rose from the front yard was a nice touch. So long, old friend. We know you didn’t go far.


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