Friday, May 27, 2011
Jacob P. Dawg Chapman, aka Jake, born approximately July 1, 1996 and acquired from the Atlanta humane society a little more than a month or so later, died peacefully while sleeping in my living room sometime between 7:30 and 9:30 AM today. Intelligent, gentle, patient, beautiful when he ran, he was as good a dog as I have ever known. With apologies to my siblings' canine companions, I feel confident that, with the possible exception of Wilbur late of the Dallas branch of the family, Jake was his Grandfather's favorite Granddog - despite having, in a fit of youthful indiscretion, chewed up that Soviet military fur hat that Granddaddy had proudly brought back from Russia.
At nearly 15 years old, he was 3 human years (which I guess translates into 21 doggie years) beyond his predicted life expectancy. Diagnosed with tumors in his liver and lungs months ago, increasingly skeletal, he just kept trucking along defying all expectations for a very long time. He was clearly living on borrowed time, but he seemed indestructable until I came home and found him warm but unresponsive.
Which created a bit of a problem.
When we were kids and our family dogs died Daddy would bury them in the garden. Years later you could gaze out and recognize the particularly bright patches of green. There was Sheba, over there Missy, that especially large well fertilized patch in the far corner was Wilbur the goat.
But still at less than full strength from chemo, limping due to a knee that flared up this morning after hours of kneeling on a hard floor during a CPR course yesterday, it was pretty clear that picking him up, transporting him somewhere myself or trying to bury him in the back yard was not a feasible approach to removing an unexpected corpse from my living room.
Turns out when a dog dies in your living room in Atlanta you call a business called "Deceased Pets". For a fee approximatly 3-4 times what it cost you originally to acquire the dog from the pound they send out a man to remove the corpse from your living room and transport it to a large refrigerator (which they assure you is just like the human morge) where it will be stored over the weekend until they can accomplish an "individual cremation" sometime next week and return the ashes to you in a plastic baggie inside a pretty blue tin container. For a fee I probably could have gotten a more decorative container worthy of my mantle place. For a larger fee I could have interned Jake in their cemetary. And for a tiny additional fee I could have had a terracotta imprint of his paw made before he was cremated. For no cost at all they were willing to preserve a lock of hair for me.
I declined all but the basic removal and cremation service. I feel confident if I really need to save some Jake hair I can sweep up a bit from under the various furniture around the house.
I expected the transportation man to arrive with a large plastic bag. But instead he came in with a little blue gurney with velcro straps onto which he respectfully rolled the dog, secured him with the straps and covered him with a blanket - I suppose to ensure that he does not get cold prior to arriving at the refrigerator - uh I mean morgue. He gently tucked the blanket around Jake's lifeless chin, then checked to learn whether I would prefer that he covered his face (it is OK, I have seen dead creatures before and have been sitting in the living room with this one for nearly an hour before he arrived), and finally asked me if I would help carry the gurney out to the van. Which i did. When we arrived, inside the van I noticed a large black plastic garbage bag containing an unknown object that appeared to be about the same size as would have been a dog who might have recently occupied a little doggie pillow that was resting next to the garbage bag in the back of the van. Which left me suspicious that Jake's duration of residence strapped onto the little blue gurney and carefully covered with a blanket to ensure he did not get cold would last - well about as long as it took to get to the site of the next deceased pet pick up site.
Amused by the ritual, still I did appreciate their concern for my feelings. Or maybe just for my doggie removal fee. I suspect that the basis for an entire anthropological dissertation lies in the study of modern urban dead pet disposal rituals.
He was a good dog. And I miss him already.