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1000 Black Lines

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Puppy's Memorial

The family poodle expired yesterday.

Once is enough. Once is enough
to say goodbye on earth.
And to grieve, that too, of course.
Once is enough to say goodbye forever.

-"Lament" by Louise Glück

The former Poet Laureate may not have intended her poem to eulogize a dog, but the occasion presented itself and hasta la vista were the only words muttered as I walked away from the freshly covered grave. Maybe we'll meet again. I'm not sure.

"To say goodbye forever" conflicts with some people's theology. Some would suggest the Puppy's (family nickname for a 12-year old miniature poodle, affectionately dubbed "Poley" by family friends) spirit will guard the land where he is buried. He wasn't much of a guard dog in life. I can only imagine him being more of a Wal-mart greeter than a guard dog. I thought of burning incense over the dog's grave and watch the smoke curl up into the heavens. I thought of performing the burial at sunset to "go gentle into that good night." I thought of many formal ways to bury a family pet. But the simplest goodbye was two gravediggers, my friend and I.

We dug a burial site in the dark of night by the glaring eye of a Mag-Lite, placed the canine corpse in the pit with his head facing northwest (to the place were he was birthed) and then I covered the stiff, fuzzy relic with sand and dirt and stone. ¿Dónde está Puppy? Behind the rose bush near a crooked yellow barn. Puppy didn't seem like a religious dog. To my knowledge he never attended a church, synagogue or mosque. So, I didn’t offer a prayer or poem. I just muttered hasta la vista and went to my friend's home for supper where both families awaited our return from the ritual of burying a family pet.

  1. Blogger mike | 12:47 AM, October 21, 2004 |  

    tonight, i finished reading "travels with charley." a story about john steinbeck's trip across america with his poodle charley. and your account of puppy is rather steinbech-ish in nature.

  2. Blogger Caribbean Kona | 4:22 PM, October 21, 2004 |  

    I don't know who Steinbech is, but that was a touching tribute to a soul-less creature. It ranks up there with "He served his master well". Although having lived with this very canine for several years that eulogy is hard to apply. All things considered, twelve years is alot for a four legged pillow.

  3. Blogger 1000 black lines | 12:05 PM, October 22, 2004 |  

    Thanks, Mike. Comparing my writing and Steinbeck's in the same sentence is quite a compliment. I must confess that I have not read Travels with Charley, yet. I've read several of Steinbeck's novels. I'll add that one my list of books to read.

    C. Kona, I believe Mike is referring to the American novelist John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, Red Pony, The Pearl). My wife laughed at my eulogy. You hated that dog, she told me. That may be an exaggeration. But my relationship with Puppy was similar to my loose tooth in the first grade. I'd sit in class and wiggle the tooth back and forth with my tongue while I was supposed to be learning long division. When the tooth finally came out there was this odd, unfamiliar gap my tongue would probe.

    I don't have to let Puppy out in the mornings. When I drop a corn chip on the floor, I have to sweep it up because Puppy no longer acts as a living vacuum cleaner. When I return home from work, there is an absence of a canine door greeter. There is an odd vacancy in the house now. I didn't think his passing would affect me this way. Maybe I'll get another dog to replace that old dog.

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