My friend Marilyn called one relatively mild morning in February. Small freezers are on sale at ShopRite, she said. I half wanted to run out and buy one, but it was still below freezing outside and in the shed as well, I hoped. The shed was working so far, for Matt and Scooter, at least. Matt is my son and Scooter his dead dog, who was currently killing time in the shed in our backyard, waiting for the ground to thaw enough to dig a hole and bury him properly.
Scooter was a dear dog – a less than show quality wire hair fox terrier who dug holes and barked and ran away but we loved him anyway, that kind of dog. Besides their big dog barks and ridiculously big teeth, wirehairs have the sweet shaggy terrier faces that wring forgiveness out of the stonehearted and there was nothing he could do to make us hate him. Especially when he went into his smiling, hand-licking, tail-wagging, snuggling, adoration act. Of course, there were times when I wanted to abandon him on the Thruway, especially when he ate furniture, but I never did and he grew old with us, secure in his safety and our love.
He had a tough go of it when he got older. He went blind and probably deaf, too. I couldn’t tell if he could hear or not since he never came when I called him, anyway. He came to Matt; he was Matt’s dog. When they moved in with me, I was merely the source of extra treats and affection when more desirable company was unavailable. We both knew that his time was limited. He had been a “rescue” dog and was a shy, flinching, nervous dog when Matt first brought him home. Both his groomer and his vet questioned his over-all health and vitality, but we didn’t buy it; we thought he was fine. He was “Scooter” when Matt got him, but when he got older and quieted down, I realized his name should have been “Earnest,” because that’s what he was for most of his life. Later on, however, when he could no longer trust his environment because he couldn’t see it, he got nervous again and fearful. It was painful to watch him deteriorate.
We talked about “End of Life Plans” for him because we knew he was getting there. Still, when I came home from a west coast vacation, I was ill-prepared to find him gone. Well, not exactly gone. The vet had come to the house to put Scooter “to sleep,” which was lovely, but Matt had wanted to take care of the disposal himself and that wasn’t quite as lovely. Thus, the shed. It was a lousy winter, thank God. The temperature stayed steadily below zero. It snowed and snowed. Wild north winds blew, heating bills soared and there was peace in the backyard except for those few days when the sun shone and we were threatened with a mid-winter thaw. Went the sun did shine, neighbors rushed outside to exclaim about the beautiful weather, while I hustled out back to check the thermometer reading in the shed. As long as it stayed below 32 degrees, the weather was indeed beautiful, but I lived in fear that we were going to have a series of 40 degree days and it would become an olfactory fact that there was a dead dog in our shed.
I seriously considered taking a ride out to Shop Rite and buying one of their little freezers. However, that would have entailed an extension cord from the house out to the shed and lifting the “body,” whatever shape it was in, into the freezer. What the hell, I said, He’s Matt’s dog, and I booked a flight to North Carolina.
I got back into town the first week in April. It was balmy – birds and butterflies, all that stuff. Scooter was not uppermost in my mind, but his absence was palpable when I walked through the house. His bed was gone and his bowls. There was a patch of bare earth in the backyard about the size of a doggie burial box. I was relieved; thrilled, to tell the truth. And glad I didn’t have a freezer on hand that was redolent of a dear departed pet.
Like Matt, I’m happy he’s still with us in any iteration. A week or so ago, Matt put a blueberry bush over the little guy’s grave. They had had some shared experiences with blueberries. He (Matt) wrote about it on Facebook in a lovely eulogy and got some excellent comments.
Consider this one of those comments.