2011 was a bad year for the domestic animals in my family – it claimed two casualties during the summer and then the hat-trick death came just before Christmas, in the form of the dog, Arnie. A sad ending to the year indeed.
The death of a pet in a normal family is really difficult. In my family? Insane. Nobody could ever accuse my family of doing half a job. When the first cat died, my mum buried him in a pillow case with some rose petals, and then we all carried him outside to lay him to rest in the front garden. I cannot imagine what the neighbours must have thought when they looked out of the window to see my mum, dad and me standing around the shallow grave, each holding a tea-light (think that was the only candle available in the house at such short notice). The second cat’s passing came and went with a slightly more subtle cremation and then a scattering of the ashes – also in the front garden, over the first cat’s grave.
When the dog died, we were all openly heartbroken. Lamenting at work, I told a few people that The Family Dog had died. I recounted tales of the little scamp and how much joy/anger he had brought us during his 16 years of life. Upon returning from a weekend in the UK, a colleague asked me how life was now without the dog in the house. ‘Oh, it’s hard, we still didn’t bury him yet,’ I stated. And so the conversation went:
Her: “You didn’t bury him?”
Me: “No, it feels too soon.”
Her: “Where is he then?”
Me: “On the mantelpiece.”
Her: “The mantelpiece? How does he fit?”
Me: “He fits fine. He’s just next to some picture frames.”
The conversation ended and an hour or so later, the same colleague came over to my desk, clutching some pieces of paper. “Is this what your dog looks like on the mantelpiece?” She thrust a tear out from a magazine into my hands. As I observed the article on taxidermy and the image of a dog that had been stuffed mid-air, catching a ball, I realised that there had been a terrible misunderstanding.
I explained to her that in fact, the dog’s ashes were on the mantelpiece and not actually the dog himself. Those that knew him, know that he was a big boy and absolutely would not have fitted on the mantelpiece.