Saturday, October 6, 2012
climbs down from the cab of the Bobcat 331E excavator and plucks a
couple of objects from the pile of dirt. "Bones," he says.
My heart feels a jolt.
are three bones. One is old and large and decayed, the leg of a cow,
most likely. Tibia, I think. I don't know how it came to be buried in
my yard, but I'm guessing a dog was involved.
other two bones are clean, relatively fresh, and a dog was definitely
involved. These are the tibia and fibula from a hind leg of my dog
Norm, who I buried ten years ago. I hadn't realized that I'd placed him
right next to my lower septic drain field.
We're repairing the
leach line. After 32 years of service, roots have destroyed the pipes.
Muscular wooden creepers have strangled from the outside, while a solid
mass of threads have blocked the inside. It's all part of the
challenge of living in a redwood forest. The big trees, harvesting my
sewage, are thriving.
I'd chosen to bury Norm just below the spot
where I'd buried his best friend, my older dog, a golden lab mix named
Oak. In life, Oak had always roosted on a wooden loveseat in a sunny
spot on my deck. Norm would curl up at the foot of the loveseat, as
close as Oak would allow.
Oak died, I buried him on the hillside below the deck. I placed the
old rotten loveseat over his grave, soon covered by vines of honeysuckle
and ivy. It seemed only fitting that when Norm died, I'd bury him at
Oak's feet beside that now-collapsed loveseat.
Norm was a bouncy
galumphus of a puppy who grew into a bouncy galumphus of a full-size
black bear. He looked like a mix of flat-coat retriever and newfie. He
slobbered. He loved puddles.
had a tendency to overwhelm newcomers, so we often had to restrain
him. One day a Hindu panditji came to our house in connection with my
daughter's wedding. This wonderful, wise old man radiated lovingness
while knowing only a few words of English. Norm, of course, instantly
loved him. The panditji was delighted by antics that would lead most
people to try to place a chair between themselves and the dog. The
panditji stared into Norm's eyes and said, "Big soul."
He could just as well have mentioned: Big paws.
Norm made a great pillow.
My youngest son, Will, grew up with Norm.
was Will who first placed a red bandanna on the dog. It was Will who
took Norm on long walks in the La Honda hills. It was Will who shared
his galumphing teenage years with Norm, growing his hair into
dreadlocks, climbing (and falling out of) trees, playing in a rock band,
wrecking the car, messing with girls, sampling illicit items, testing
the limits of parental patience. Maybe it's no coincidence that when
Will went away to college, Norm declined rapidly.
give you years of love. Then they leave you with a broken heart. My
kids had all left home; my daughter was getting married, and the day
came when I knew Norm was dying. On the deck outdoors under the trees I sat with him in daylight and into
the night, touching him. His breathing came hard. "Dream of beaches," I
said, rubbing the fur over his heart. The breathing slowed. And then
The big soul was released. The woods were quiet and dark. The moon was setting low among the redwoods.
was a giant dog, and the next day I dug him a giant grave. I placed
his head uphill, facing Oak and the loveseat. The panditji had left us
bracelets of bright threads. I was still wearing one around my wrist.
Now I placed another around Norm's front paw. He wore a red bandanna
around his neck, as he had for most of his life.
later his legs, downhill, were clipped by the excavator. When the work
is finished, I'll bury the bones again. With a fresh bandanna. And freshly-blessed threads.
May he then rest in peace.